A Tory MP has sparked outrage after suggesting schoolchildren from the London borough of Lambeth were more likely to end up in jail than in university education.

Earlier this week, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield tweeted the comments to defend the appointment of Toby Young on the board of the new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS).

Caulfield, who grew up on a South London council estate in the 1970s and 1980s, wrote: "As a working class kid who went to school in the socialist state of Lambeth where more kids end up in prison than university, why the outrage at the appointment of [Toby Young]? He's set up schools that have helped thousands of working class kids".

Young's appointment has been strongly criticised by his detractors who have questioned whether the free school co-founder is fit for the post, highlighting statements he has made about students, teachers, children and the LGBT community.

Lambeth has one of the highest crime rates in the capital and the Tory MP's words were met by strong criticism, amid suggestions she was perpetuating a stereotype used to describe young people in the borough.

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham, dismissed the remarks as "offensive garbage" and challenged Caulfield to back them up with evidence.

"Provide the evidence and, if you can't, provide an apology," he tweeted.

"These comments are not only offensive but factually wrong. I grew up and went to school in Lambeth and no one denies too many young people in Lambeth go through the criminal justice system or that prostitution has historically been a problem.

"But to make sweeping generalisations that reinforce stereotypes in this way is totally out of order."

Roy Smith, the Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police also waded in the debate, suggesting Caulfield's words painted a distorted picture of the borough.

"To suggest the majority of kids in Lambeth end up in prison is inaccurate, offensive and unfair to the majority of wonderful young people in the borough despite in some circumstances having a range of personal challenges," he tweeted.

Caulfield later clarified the remarks, insisting they were referred to her own school and her own experience growing up in the area.

"My tweet is about my experience of growing up as a working class kid in South London where there was little or no expectations for kid like me," she was quoted as saying by the Evening Standard.

"The only careers advice given to me was how to get on the council housing register and as a result very few people I grew up with, including me, never went to university. In fact more people I knew went to prison than university.

"The area is a very different place nearly forty years later and many of us who grew up three left once the area became gentrified as we could not afford to stay."

However, she also added that it was "sad that people want to dismiss the experiences of the working class community" and that "people don't want to listen to realities of how tough it was growing up in most notorious red light district of South London".