A TORY MP is facing calls to apologise after suggesting people use food banks because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

Ashfield MP, Lee Anderson, invited “everybody” on the opposition benches in the House of Commons to visit a food bank in Ashfield, Notts, where, when people come for a food parcel, they now need to register for a “budgeting course” and a “cooking course”.

When asked by a Labour MP if it should be necessary to have food banks in 21st century Britain, the Conservative said there is not “this massive use for food banks” in the UK, but “generation after generation who cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

His comments, which came during the second day of the Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons, have been harshly criticised, with some urging the Ashfield MP to apologise.

Former Welsh secretary Stephen Crabb took to Twitter after his party colleague's comments and warned those who are budgeting and meeting other traditional Tory "defences against hardship" are still struggling "to keep their heads above water".

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, who also served as a work and pensions secretary, responsible for benefits, under David Cameron wrote on Twitter: "Conservatives tend to emphasise work, good budgeting/housekeeping, strong families etc as defences against hardship. Problem right now for many people is that ticking all those boxes still doesn’t keep their heads above water. Government has done a lot but more is required."

 

Labour branded his remarks “beyond belief”, whilst the Liberal Democrats described them as “disgraceful” and the SNP said they were “crass”.

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

The Trades Union Congress insisted the comments showed “how out of touch Conservative MPs and ministers are with the cost of living emergency”.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West), the subsequent speaker in the Commons debate, told Mr Anderson 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”.

Mr Anderson said: “My invitation is to everybody on that side of the House, come to Ashfield and work with me for a day in my food bank and see the brilliant scheme we have got in place where when people come now, for a food parcel, they have to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course.

“And what we do in the food bank, we show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget.

“We can make a meal for about 30 pence a day.

“And this is cooking from scratch.”

Intervening, Labour MP, Alex Cunningham (Stockton North), asked: “Should it be necessary to have food banks in 21st century Britain?”

Mr Anderson replied: “He makes a great point and this is exactly my point.

“So, I invite you personally to come to Ashfield, look at our food bank, how it works and 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 challenge is there.

“Come, come. I’ll offer anybody.”

 

Responding to Mr Anderson’s food banks comments, 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.”

The Liberal Democrats have also called for an apology.

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Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group’s chief executive, said: “Four million children are living in poverty in the UK, and it’s not because their parents can’t cook.

“There are few households better at budgeting than those on a low income, they have to do it every single day.

“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.”

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”.

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