Tory MP who insisted there is little need for food banks has said struggling families should learn to cook so they can cut back on going to the “chip shop”.
Lee Anderson caused a row on Wednesday when he claimed the poor should “cook from scratch”, which would mean meals costing as little as 30p.
Doubling down on his remarks on Thursday, Mr Anderson said he wasn’t a “nasty Tory” and claimed he was glad his comments had “caused all this fuss”.
He told Times Radio: “Once somebody finds out they can actually cook meals relatively cheaply… it’s a lot cheaper than spending money on… junk foods and takeaways and the chip shop.”
Challenging opposition MPs and the media to visit a food bank in his Ashfield constituency where people are urged to take cooking lessons rather than just accepting handouts, Mr Anderson said the UK was facing a major problem, with generations of families missing out on vital cooking skills.
“There is a massive problem in this country where people simply cannot cook,” he said. Mr Anderson, once a Labour councillor, added: “You can’t just keep throwing money at a problem, eventually you have got to… get to the root cause.”
However, the Government on Thursday distanced itself from his remarks. Justice minister Victoria Atkins told Sky News: “This is not the view of me or anyone in government. We want to give not just immediate help but longer-term support as well.”
Asked whether Mr Anderson’s remarks showed the Conservatives were out of touch with ordinary voters, the minister insisted people facing a squeeze on their budgets should continue to seek out the help of food banks and other groups.
But she added that some newspaper headlines may not have fairly reflected Mr Anderson’s remarks which she said were mainly about his experiences of one food bank in his Nottinghamshire constituency.
“Having watched the debate I am not sure that was what Lee was saying,” she said but added that she did not think cooking lessons would be the “complete solution”.
Mr Anderson hit back at the reporting of his comments, writing on Facebook on Wednesday night: “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. The give food parcels away on the condition the 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.”