Tory MP criticised for saying food bank users just need to learn how to cook


A Conservative MP has been heavily criticised for claiming that people who use food banks do not know how to cook or manage their finances properly.

Lee Anderson, who made the remarks during a House of Commons debate, was accused of insulting people who are struggling to feed their families and Labour said they were “beyond belief”.

Mr Anderson said people at a food bank in his Nottinghamshire constituency of Ashfield were being shown how they could cook “cheap and nutritious meals” from scratch on a budget of about 30p a day.

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A Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, intervened to ask whether it should be necessary to have food banks in 21st century Britain.

Mr Anderson said: “I think you will see first hand that there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country but generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch.

“They cannot budget.”

The comments instantly attracted a deluge of opprobrium inside and outside the chamber.

But SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who followed Mr Anderson in the debate said people do not use food banks because they do not know how to cook, but because “we have poverty in this country at a scale that should shame his government”.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions minister Karen Buck said: “In the world where people actually live, we now hear daily stories of families going without food and others unable to turn their ovens on in fear of rising energy bills.

“The idea that the problem is cooking skills and not 12 years of Government decisions that are pushing people into extreme poverty is beyond belief.

“Out of touch doesn’t even cover it.”

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman, Wendy Chamberlain, said in a statement: “These comments are disgraceful and an insult to millions of hard-working people who are struggling to put food on the table for their family through no fault of their own.

“Lee Anderson should apologise straight away for his shameful remarks.”

The Child Poverty Action Group claimed politicians “would do better to back real-world solutions, like bringing benefits in line with inflation this autumn”.

The Trussell Trust charity said that “cooking meals from scratch won’t help families keep the lights on or put food on the table, if they don’t have enough money in their pockets”.

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”.

Mr Anderson has previously run into controversy after saying he would not support England at the Euros football tournament because players chose to “take the knee” to protest over racial injustice.

His comments on food poverty come after George Eustice, the environment secretary, told Sky News consumers under pressure due to rising prices should buy value brands.

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