Lee Anderson has been criticized for his “blatant and cruel” comments on food banks, with Labor branding the comments as “incredible”.
A Conservative MP has defended his comments on food banks after saying people use them because they “can’t cook properly” and “can’t budget”.
Lee Anderson invited “everyone” in the opposition benches in the House of Commons to visit a food bank in his Nottinghamshire constituency, where people now have to sign up for a “budgeting class” and a “cooking class” when they go to pick up a food parcel.
Who is Lee Anderson?
Lee Anderson, 55, is a Conservative politician who has served as MP for Ashfield since December 2019.
He was previously a Labor councilor in Ashfield before defecting to the Conservative Party and becoming a councilor in Mansfield in 2018.
What did he say about panels?
Mr Anderson, who earns £84,144 a year as an MP, said there isn’t “this massive use of food banks” in the UK, but “generation after generation that can’t cook properly” and “can’t budget”.
His “crass and cruel” comments, in response to a question from a Labor MP about the need for food banks in 21st century Britain, came on the second day of the Queen’s Speech debate in the House of Commons and drew sharp criticism.
The MP has hit back at coverage of his comments, writing on Facebook: “Gutter Press Again.
“I didn’t say that poor people can’t cook or that there’s no need for blackboards. I said there is no need to be parroted by the MSM (mainstream media) right now.
“Today I called on the whole Parliamentary Labor Party to come to Ashfield to visit the board I work with. They are giving away grocery packages on the condition that they sign up for cooking and budget classes.
“I’ve done several events at the foodbank where we stacked cooked food on a budget. My offer stands. Come to Ashfield.”
Mr Anderson was backed by a Tory MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley, who said there was a problem with “basic education” and numeracy.
What has been said about his comments?
Labor branded the MP’s comments “incredible” and the Liberal Democrats said 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 which is affecting families across the UK.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said that “rather than being condescending, conservative politicians should put pressure on the Chancellor to call for an emergency budget”.
Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, who later spoke in the Commons debate, told Mr Anderson that people don’t use food banks because they can’t cook, it’s because “we have poverty on such a scale in this country should shame his government”.
Karen Buck, Secretary of State for Shadow Work and Pensions, said: “In the world people actually live in, we now hear daily stories of families going without food and others unable to turn on their stoves for fear of soaring 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 incredible. Except for contact, it doesn’t even cover.”
SNP spokeswoman for Works and Pensions Kirsty Blackman added: “These comments from a Tory MP that people use food banks because they don’t know how to cook or don’t have a budget are reprehensible, but they show how out of touch this broken Tory government is with ordinary people.”
How much does Lee Anderson charge for expenses?
Mr Anderson claimed nearly £222,000 in business expenses for a year, including £4,100 on travel and “upkeep”.
The MP claimed £219,703.44 in business expenses from 2020-2021, putting his entitlements to office, staff, accommodation, travel and subsistence above the average £203,880 claimed by MPs.
His largest expenditure was on staff at £165,215.27, followed by £33,144.30 on office expenses and £17,650.60 on accommodation, while a further £67.57 was spent on hospitality.