A conservative MP has defended his comments on food banks after saying people use them because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.
Lee Anderson invited “everybody” on the opposition benches in the Commons to visit a food bank in his Nottinghamshire constituency where people now need to register for a “budgeting course” and a “cooking course” when they come for a food parcel.
Who is Lee Anderson?
Lee Anderson, 55, is a Conservative politician who has been the MP for Ashfield since December 2019.
He was previously a Labour councillor in Ashfield, before defecting to the Conservative Party in 2018 and becoming a councillor in Mansfield.
What did he say about food banks?
Mr Anderson, who earns £84,144 a year as an MP, 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 “crass and cruel” comments, which were in response to a question asked by a Labour MP about the necessity of food banks in 21st century Britain, came during the second day of the Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons and have been harshly criticised.
The MP has hit back over the reporting of his comments, writing on Facebook: “Gutter Press Again.
“I did not say poor people cannot cook or there is no need for food banks. I said there is not the need currently being parrotted out by the MSM (mainstream media).
“Today I challenged the whole Parliamentary Labour Party to come to Ashfield to visit the food bank I work with. They give food parcels away on the condition they enrole for cooking and budgeting lessons.
“I have done several events at the foodbank where we batch cooked food on a budget. My offer stands. Come to Ashfield.”
Mr Anderson was backed by fellow Tory MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley, who said there is a problem with “basic education” and numeracy skills.
What’s been said about his comments?
Labour branded the MP’s comments “beyond belief”, with the Liberal Democrats saying his remarks were “disgraceful” and “an insult to millions of hard-working people”.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the comments highlight how “out of touch” Tory MPs and ministers are with the current cost-of-living crisis affecting families across the UK.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said that “rather than being condescending, Conservative politicians should be putting pressure on the Chancellor to call an emergency budget”.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, for Edinburgh South West, the subsequent speaker in the Commons debate, told Mr Anderson that 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”.
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.”
SNP work and pensions spokeswoman Kirsty Blackman added: “These comments from a Tory MP that people who use food banks do so because they don’t know how to cook or budget are reprehensible, but they also highlight how out of touch this broken Tory government is with ordinary people.”
How much does Lee Anderson claim on expenses?
Mr Anderson claimed almost £222,000 in business expenses one year, including £4,100 on travel and ‘subsistence’
The MP claimed £219,703.44 as business costs from 2020 to 2021, bringing his office, staffing, accommodation, travel and subsistence claims higher than the average £203,880 claimed by MPs.
His biggest expense was on staffing at £165,215.27, followed by £33,144.30 on office costs and £17,650.60 on accommodation, while a further £67.57 was spent on hospitality.