Ashfield Tory MP Lee Anderson claims some food bank users 'take the mick'

  • Lee Anderson speaks to ITV News reporter Katie Oscroft

A Conservative MP who suggested people should learn to budget better and cook properly rather than rely on food banks has stood by his comments – and claimed some who use the service are "taking the mick".

In a Commons debate on the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, 11 May, Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, said "there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country".

The remarks were condemned by Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP, while the Tory Justice Minister Victoria also said they were "not right".

But, during a visit to a food bank in his constituency, Mr Anderson remained unrepentant and blamed the backlash on "wicked headlines" in the "mainstream media".

"My comments in the Commons have been taken the wrong way by some people in the mainstream media. They put their own spin on it, tried to make me out to be some nasty person," he said.

He said raising the issue had helped to "shine a light on the great work that the food bank does".

But he added: "There are some people that come here that do take the Michael, that take the mick, that don't really need food banks, that are abusing the system, and that is terrible because there are genuine people in this town that need our support."

The Trussell Trust handed out more than two million emergency food parcels in the last 12 months. Credit: PA

During the Commons debate, Mr Anderson challenged opposition MPs to visit the food bank with him to see how volunteers carry out classes to help people feed themselves economically.

He later said people in need should try "batch cooking" and said it was possible to make family meals for 30p.

Mr Anderson said the controversy around his comments had helped to raise the profile of the food bank, adding: "The whole country is talking about this and if my legacy is that we can get people trained or better educated in life skills, cooking skills, budgeting skills, to help them in times of need, then surely that has got to be a good thing."

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust said it handed out more than two million emergency food parcels to people in crisis in the 12 months to March – an increase of 14% compared with the same period in 2019/20. More than 800,000 went to children.

Sumi Rabindrakumar, from the Trussell Trust, said often those in most need were people who were unable to work full-time.

She said: "The people most at risk of needing a food bank are people for whom work isn't necessarily the full solution, so people who are already doing unpaid work like caring for family members or have barriers to work that make it difficult to work full-time."

  • Jackie Snape of Disability Action Yorkshire

Jackie Snape, chief executive for Disability Action Yorkshire, added that there were reasons why many people could not cook in bulk.

She said: "When we're training people to live independently that's how we start. We start with training people to get microwave meals because they can be very nutritious.

"Yes they are more expensive but sometimes that's the only way that someone is going to get a hot meal. It's all very well saying you can cook a meal for 30p from scratch but that's bulk cooking and cooking for a lot of people."

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