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Tory MP Criticised For Suggesting Low Earners Are "Low Achievers"

Sir Alan Duncan faced fury from Labour MPs. He later clarified his comments.

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BBC Parliament

A Conservative MP has been criticised by Labour for apparently suggesting that non-wealthy people are "low achievers".

Sir Alan Duncan, a former minister, said the House of Commons risked being "stuffed full of low achievers" if MPs were forced to publish their tax returns.

His comment during a debate on the Panama Papers on Monday prompted gasps from the Labour benches opposite and a series of angry tweets from backbenchers.

What an arrogant snob @AlanDuncanMP is, equating money with achievement! The size of your bank balance is nothing to do with your ability!

Duncan, MP for Rutland and Melton, said: "Shouldn't the prime minister's critics really just snap out of the synthetic indignation and admit that their real point is that they hate anyone who has got a hint of wealth in them?

"May I support the prime minister in fending off those who are attacking him, particularly in thinking of this place, because if he doesn't, we risk seeing a House of Commons which is stuffed full of low achievers who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and know absolutely nothing about the outside world."

Obnoxious comment from Alan Duncan MP suggesting you can only be a high achiever if you make a packet of money

Duncan was defending Cameron after more than a week of damaging headlines over his family's tax affairs. The PM believes "potential prime ministers" should publish their tax returns, but not all MPs.

Cameron told Duncan he was "grateful for his support", adding: "I don't want us to discourage people who have had a successful career in business or anything else in coming into this house and making a contribution."

Tory MP Alan Duncan has basically just said that everyone who stands to be an MP who isn't already rich is a "low achiever" #panamapapers

Labour MP Caroline Flint told Cameron: "It saddens me that the MP for Rutland and Melton seems to suggest that if you weren't a millionaire you were a low achiever."

After starting her question with the phrase "speaking as a low achiever", Cameron said he had always thought of her "as a high achiever".

According to Tory Alan Duncan MP the only way to be a 'high achiever' is to earn a packet. A new low. Disgraceful.

Duncan later attempted to clarify his comments as the backlash grew, insisting that he did not mean to equate achievement with wealth.

Seems I could have been a little clearer in Parliament today. Success is of course not always the same as wealth (1/2)

My point was that we shouldn't discourage people who've done well in business from entering Parliament by sniping at wealth per se (2/2)

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

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