Senior Tory MP Lee Anderson has said some families are “abusing” food banks because they also eat out in McDonald’s.
The deputy chairman claimed he has seen one family being helped at a food bank “in McDonald’s two or three times a week” as he criticised their “priorities”.
“Food banks are being abused,” he told a Westminster Hall debate. “They are abused, food banks are abused by people who don’t need the food banks – we should target the food banks.”
Mr Anderson: “One particular family I was helping, really helping, and they were going to the food bank two or three times a week to get their groceries and then, you know, I see them in McDonald’s two or three times a week.”
The outspoken backbencher also said that struggling families were “more resourceful in the past” – comparing his own family’s garden growing up to modern food banks.
He used an interview on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast to discuss his own experience of growing up, as he argued that there was a “different culture” when it came to work and earning money in the 1970s.
Mr Anderson, MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, has previously attracted criticism for suggesting that people in the UK use food banks because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.
“Things were more expensive I think back in the ‘70s. Food was definitely more expensive, relatively speaking,” he told the podcast. “We had one holiday a year, which was a caravan in Skegness.
“We had a garden full of vegetables, chickens at the bottom of the garden for the eggs. And that was our foodbank. Our garden was our foodbank. So if we were short of anything, my dad went into the garden or the allotment and got the food out.”
He said that he did not think that his family were “impoverished or in poverty or dirt poor Perhaps if some people today could go back in a time machine and see how we lived, they’d probably think we were very, very poor. But I didn’t see that at the time”.
Poor families ‘more resourceful’ in past, says Lee Anderson
Pressed on whether such comments could strike a lot of people as unsympathetic or unrealistic for many, Mr Anderson doubled down. “People were more resourceful,” he said.
“My parents were the children of men that had fought in the war, they’d gone through very, very difficult times.
“It wasn’t ‘complain on Facebook or Twitter or go and do a TikTok video or just complain to government’. It was your responsibility – if you want to have children, you pay for them. If you want nice things, you pay for them.”
The right-wing red wall MP is popular with the Tory grassroots, and was recently named as the favourite backbencher of members regularly surveyed by the website Conservative Home.
Tory MPs have expressed dismay at his recent appointment as deputy chair. One former minister told The Independent Mr Anderson would be a “walking embarrassment” in the job.
In 2019, Mr Anderson sparked anger by posting a video on Facebook arguing that “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes.
In another 2019 campaign moment, Mr Anderson forgot he was wearing a microphone as he got one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter in a bid to impress a journalist.