POLITICS

Edwina Currie Says 'Pernicious' Food Banks Make People Poorer

28/01/2014 17:05 GMT | Updated 28/01/2014 17:59 GMT
David Parry/PA Wire
EDITORIAL USE ONLYEdwina Currie launches a new version of the British Lion Code of Practice, version 7, which marks the 15th anniversary of the Code and the return of the Little Lion to British eggs, at Portcullis House in London.

Former Tory health minister Edwina Currie has warned that "pernicious" food banks can put local shops out of business and make users poorer.

Writing for the Spectator's Coffee House blog, Currie argues that food banks end up making people poorer rather than helping them.

"Free food subsidises low wages; it helps support the black economy. It pauperises those it seeks to help. Like giving money to ‘homeless’ beggars on London streets, it encourages more of what it seeks to relieve.

"The food banks can have pernicious effects on the local economy. Some Liverpool streets where I grew up have betting shops and pawnbrokers, but no food store. There’s no need for one, if enough local residents get their groceries free. But the closure of a corner shop affects everyone, including those who don’t qualify for the food bank."

She suggested that the spread of food banks, with recent figures suggesting the use of food banks has tripled in a year, is not a sign of greater poverty.

"The data are being used as a stick to beat the government, often by well-meaning groups who want to ‘do something’ to help. In reality, they may be perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place," she wrote.

"As anyone with their wits about them can grasp, if you increase the free supply of something worth having, you’ll have takers queuing at the door."

Currie's controversial comments after she used a radio appearance to accuse food bank users of spending their cash on tattoos and dog food rather than food.

She told BBC Radio Stoke: '"I get very, very troubled at the number of people who are using food banks who think that it's fine to pay to feed their dog, their dog is in good nick and beautiful, but they never learn to cook, they never learn to manage and the moment they've got a bit of spare cash they're off getting another tattoo.

"We should feel cross about this, all of us."

In response to Currie's claims, Labour MP Tom Watson tweeted that her comments were "appalling".

Currie's assessment of food banks would likely get the backing of former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins, who branded them a "complete con".

In a blog for the Huffington Post UK, Hopkins wrote: "Food bank users are like terminal cancer patients. There may not be a tomorrow so spend like hell today. It reminds me of children given money in a gift shop. They have to spend it all immediately, driven by a desire to spend not a desire for something they need."