Philip Hammond criticised for talking about night on the beach during Cabinet homeless discussion
Philip Hammond has been criticised after he spoke about a summer night he spent on a beach during a Cabinet discussion on homelessness.
The Chancellor's surprise intervention came as Theresa May's top team discussed a £28m scheme aimed at tackling the issue of rough sleeping.
Ministers referred to the death of a homeless man outside parliament as they spoke about the extent of the problem.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hammond said he had once been “sleeping on the beach at midnight on Midsummer's day” but had not been considered to be homeless.
It is not the first time the Chancellor has stunned colleagues with comments he has made during Cabinet meetings.
Last year, he said that driving trains was so easy "even a woman can do it" during a discussion on the public sector pay cap.
Defending his comments on homelessness, an aide to Mr Hammond said: "Philip would never be flippant about such a serious matter. At the last Budget he announced £28million to spend on homeless people. It is an issue he takes very seriously."
Another friend said: "He was trying to make the point that [for the homeless] it is the second night you have to focus on."
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP said: “If true, these comments are inappropriate, and confirm that Conservative Ministers just don’t grasp how serious the problem of rising rough sleeping is. The Chancellor must either repudiate these reports or apologise.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said that rough sleeping was a tragedy and that is why the Government is committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
"Cabinet heard that the Government is supporting rough sleepers through a new housing first approach, with pilots due to take place in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Manchester. This £28m project will provide intensive support to entrenched rough sleepers, providing them with stable, affordable accommodation and other support."