Watch: Tory MP says there’s no ‘massive use’ for food banks as users ‘can’t cook or budget’
A Tory MP who sparked outrage after saying people use food banks because they can't cook or budget has said he's "glad he caused such a fuss".
Ashfield MP Lee Anderson was widely criticised after he told the House of Commons there isn't a “massive use” for food banks in this country, and that the problem is “generation after generation” of people who “cannot budget” or make meals properly.
The government has distanced itself from Anderson's comments, with minister Victoria Atkins saying the analysis was “not right”.
Speaking to Times Radio on Thursday, Anderson doubled down on his remarks, saying he was being criticised for “talking common sense”.
“The point I was trying to make is that I think the actual food bank usage is exaggerated,” he said.
He added: “The point I was trying to make is that, yes, we’ve got lots of food banks but, actually, if we get to the real nub of the problem in a lot of cases, then there are generations of people out there that simply haven’t got the skills to budget properly and to go shopping and do a proper weekly shop like we used to back in the day, and use of fresh ingredients to make nutritious meals.”
Anderson said that while there are “always genuine people staying in need”, many would benefit from the “right help and the right support and the right education”.
His comments came just days after the Trussell Trust warned of a "national emergency" after revealing it had distributed 2 million food parcels in a year for the second time ever.
After his statement in parliament, Labour branded Anderson’s remarks “beyond belief”, the Liberal Democrats described them as “disgraceful”, and the SNP said they were “crass”.
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said Anderson had "no clue" what his constituents were going through.
She added: "A genuinely astonishing comment from someone who represents an area with almost 30% of children living in poverty.
"It would appear he has no clue of what life is like on the ground for so many of his constituents."
Labour MP for Streatham Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted: "A Tory MP just stood up and told Parliament we only have food banks because people "can't cook properly" and "can't budget".
"The only people who can't budget are Tory Ministers, who are helping energy shareholders get rich instead of helping everyone else with a windfall tax."
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Rather than insulting parents who have no option but to use foodbanks in the face of soaring costs and real terms income cuts, politicians would do better to back real-world solutions, like bringing benefits in line with inflation this autumn.”
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said that “rather than being condescending, Conservative politicians should be putting pressure on the chancellor to call an emergency budget”.
The TUC insisted the comments showed “how out of touch Conservative MPs and ministers are with the cost of living emergency”.
Food banks have reported increased stress due to rising demand amid soaring inflation, which has hit a 30-year high.
New figures released last month showed food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network provided more than 2.1 million parcels to people facing financial hardship across the country, from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.
It is the first time food banks in the trust’s network have provided more than two million parcels outside 2020/21 during the height of the pandemic.
The 2022 figure represents a 14% increase compared to the same period in 2019/20 – with more than 830,000 parcels provided to children alone, a 15% increase from 2019/20, when 720,000 were provided.