03/06/2019 21:43 BST | Updated 04/06/2019 11:42 BST

Philip Hammond Rejects UN Report Claim That Millions In UK Live In Dire Poverty

“Look around you, that’s not what we see in this country," Chancellor says.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has faced a backlash after dismissing the idea that vast numbers of British people live in dire poverty.

Hammond hit out at a report by UN special rapporteur Philip Alston which stated one fifth of the British population - 14 million people - live in poverty.

The Chancellor told BBC2′s Newsnight: “I reject the idea that there are vast numbers of people facing dire poverty in this country.”

He said: “I don’t accept the UN rapporteur’s report at all.

“I think that’s a nonsense. Look around you, that’s not what we see in this country.

“Of course there are people struggling with the cost of living. I understand that.

“But the point being is that we are addressing these things through getting to the root causes.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Hammond of being “not fit to hold office” after the remarks, and urged him to resign. 

In the report released last month, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty said the UK has violated its human rights obligations through sustained and widespread cuts to social support.

Alston labelled the government’s welfare politics a “sanitised” version of Victorian-era workhouses.

Alston wrote: “Much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.”

McDonnell said: “Multi-millionaire Hammond lives in a different world to the rest of us.

“He displays a brutal complacency about the scale of poverty and human suffering his austerity programme has created.

“Heartless, without compassion or any sense of humanity, after these remarks he demonstrates he is not fit to hold office and should consider his position.

“It’s not just the United Nations - Human Rights Watch and others have commented on the poverty and inequality under this government.”

A source close to Hammond said: “The Chancellor was referring to Philip Alston’s report on poverty, which others in government have described as ‘barely believable’ documentation and based on a short period of time in this country.

“It doesn’t reflect where we are now, with the number of people in absolute poverty falling by 400,00 since 2010, nor does it paint an accurate picture of our approach to poverty.”