A TORY minister has proven to be miles off the mark after suggesting Bolton job seekers should look for work 'nearby' - in Sunderland.

Bolton North East MP David Crausby asked Conservative Economic Secretary Chloe Smith what one of his constituents - a care worker for the Stroke Association - could do about having her working hours slashed.

In an echo of the infamous quip by former Conservative cabinet member Norman Tebbit, the MP suggested the woman apply for a second job at car manufacturer Nissan - in “nearby” Sunderland.

Tebbit had said his unemployed father had got on his bike to look for work and it subsequently led to the slogan "on yer bike!".

Smith, a Conservative MP for Norwich North, told Parliament the woman should take a “clear look around at the opportunities available” saying job vacancies were on the rise.

She added: “There are jobs out there. Members need only to hear this morning’s announcement from Nissan — somewhere near the honourable gentleman’s constituency — to know that there is work available.”

Last night, Mr Crausby said the response was “ridiculous and naive”.

He said: “She clearly didn’t know what she was talking about on the whole issue. It was a ridiculous answer. It wasn’t facetious, more naive.

“To be frank, it was typical of a southern MP who knows nothing about the North. They have little experience of our part of the world.”

The workforce in Sunderland is expected to rise by 600 to 6,000 people although it may create as many as 2,000 extra jobs in the supply chain.

Nissan has been helped with a £9.3m offer of funding from the Government’s £2.4bn Regional Growth Fund.

Mr Crausby said: “We should be trying to encourage people to go into work, not onto benefits.

“To increase the number of hours people need to work to gain working tax credit will put a lot of people in difficult circumstances.”