Labour has attacked Michael Gove over his comments about food bank users today. Ed Miliband called Gove an ‘absolute disgrace’ in Prime Ministers Questions, and said the Education Secretary was “out of touch” with ordinary people’s lives. Luciana Berger MP has said she was ‘appalled’ by Michael Gove’s comments while Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, asked the Conservatives to “admit that [British people] can’t afford to feed their families because of this government.”
Ed Miliband spoke out after Michael Gove asserted yesterday that people turn to foodbanks because “they are not best able to manage their finances.” His comments have angered many Labour MPs, who say that stagnating wages, high unemployment and benefit sanctions are the real reason why so many cannot afford to buy basic staples.
Michael Gove made the comments in response to a question by Labour MP Luciana Berger. She asked why school uniforms are so expensive that parents are having to source them from foodbanks. Luciana says the Education Secretary’s views are nothing new among Conservative ministers:
“I was absolutely appalled by the Education Secretary’s response to my question. I have visited several food banks and had many conversations with people who’ve been forced turn to them. I vehemently disagree the people who use the service have mismanaged their finances. Food bank users often tend to be better than most at managing their money because they have to live from week-to-week.
George Osborne has admitted he’s never been to a food bank to see how life for ordinary people is getting harder as a result of his weak economic recovery. Neither has Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform. Thousands of people have gone to a food bank to receive food aid for themselves and their families. We are the seventh richest country in the world – when did this become acceptable?”
350,000 people used a UK food bank last year, compared to 41,000 under Labour in 2010. Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust reported a 21% rise in the number of people who said they did not have enough money for food because of problems with benefits. Tory Welfare Minister Lord Freud has said the two factors were unrelated. But Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trust, disagrees: “The reality is that there is a clear link between benefit delays or changes and people turning to food banks, and the situation has got worse in the last three months.”
Michael Gove said jobcentres are now “signposting families to local food banks as well as other local organisations supporting families in financial difficulties.” But charities say the DWP has pulled support for foodbanks because of the bad publicity surrounding the scheme. Trussell Trust chief executive Chris Mould said today: “We’re delighted that David Cameron understands the importance of enabling Jobcentres to refer people in crisis to foodbanks but we are deeply concerned that some people within DWP are doing their best to block the agreement that makes this possible.”