Iain Duncan Smith has described a petition calling on him to live on £53 a week as a 'complete stunt' and says he already knows what it is like to live on the breadline.

The online petition was started when the Woodford MP was challenged on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over sweeping changes to the benefits system.

In response to a question by David Bennett, a market stall trader and working benefits claimant, who asked the Work and Pensions Secretary if he could live on £53 a week, Mr Duncan Smith said: "If I had to I would."

The petition has been signed by approaching 125,000 people, overshadowing a day of government briefing on welfare reform.

But the Work and Pensions Secretary on Tuesday dismissed the petition.

He said: "This is a complete stunt which distracts attention from the welfare reforms which are much more important and which I have been working hard to get done.

"I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done this (lived on the equivalent of £53 a week).

"I know what it is like to live on the breadline."

The petition on website change.org was set up on Monday and calls on Mr Duncan Smith to live on the budget for at least one year.

It says: "This would help realise the Conservative party’s current mantra that ‘We are all in this together.’"