11 Sep 2013

Food bank comments by Gove ‘a disgrace’, says Miliband

Ed Miliband brands Education Secretary Michael Gove a “disgrace” for suggesting that families often rely on food banks because they are unable to manage their finances.

Ed Miliband brands Education Secretary Michael Gove a

At Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader demanded to know if David Cameron agreed with Mr Gove.

Accusing the government of being out of touch with ordinary people, Mr Miliband said: “We know what this government thinks of people who go to food banks because the Children’s Secretary (Mr Gove) said that people who go to food banks only have themselves to blame”.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Gove said he had visited a food bank last week and understood there were families who face “considerable pressures”.

He added: “It’s often as a result of some decisions that have been taken by those families which mean that they are not best able to manage their finances.

“What we need to do is to ensure the support is there not just financially but also to make sure that the right decisions are made.”

Delayed benefits payments

Mr Miliband said the education secretary’s comments were “an absolute disgrace”.

Pointing at the government’s front bench in the Commons, he said: “Let’s see if any of them try to live on £150 a week and then we will see what happens”.

Channel 4 News’ FactCheck has previously found that nearly a third of people who use food banks say they need help because of delays to benefits payments.

Though there is no evidence that delays are worse under the current government, FactCheck said the effects of short-term financial difficulty will be more acute at a time of rising food prices and fuel bills.

Read more: FactCheck - are food banks plugging the benefits gap?

Indeed, a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty warned that the introduction of universal credit under welfare reforms could put further strain on family finances.

The report found that: “The fact that universal credit will normally be paid monthly, rather than fortnightly, runs the risk that the experience of running out of money before the end of the month will become much more widespread.”

Mr Miliband said Mr Gove’s comment “just shows how out of touch this Conservative party is”.

He added: “Now we would all like to hear – do you agree with your children’s secretary?”

But Mr Cameron said he did not have to take any lectures from Labour on food banks, telling MPs their use increased 10 times under the last government.

Though Mr Cameron is technically correct about the rise, as FactCheck has previously stated, both Labour and the current government are vulnerable to criticism over the rising use of food banks.

Demand for food banks had risen steadily since the first one opened in 2000. In May it was revealed that half a million people in the UK rely on food banks to survive.

Read more: FactCheck on food banks - is Cameron on the money?