Michael Gove has been called “out of touch” for his parliamentary quip in which the Secretary of Education suggested that people who turn to food banks do so because of decisions they make "which mean they are not best able to manage their finances".
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Gove prefaced his “insulting” line by stating that he “understood the considerable pressures” families were under, before adding that their plight was "often as a result of decisions taken by those families".
In response, Labour MP Steve McCabe said: "Michael Gove has managed to be both insulting and out of touch,” adding: “Families forced to go to food banks should not be stigmatised by secretaries of state. The spiralling number of food banks across Britain should be a mark of shame for this Government."
Luciana Berger, whose question had stirred the education secretary to offer the controversial line, said she was "appalled" by his response.
Speaking to the Press Association, Berger said: "I was appalled by the Secretary of State's response. I have visited several food banks and I have spoken to many service users. There are many parents both in and out of work who are struggling to get by because they have been hit by this Government's cost of living crisis.
"People I have met are ashamed to have to turn to food banks. I vehemently disagree it is because they have mismanaged their finances. This Government has got no answer to the millions of parents that are really struggling to get by."
More from the Press Association:
During education questions in the Commons, Berger raised concerns about food banks distributing school uniforms to parents. Replying, Gove had said: "I had the opportunity to visit a food bank in my constituency only on Friday and I appreciate that there are families who do face considerable pressures. 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."
Oxfam said the rising number of people using food banks was due to low wages, rising prices and failings in the welfare system that were dragging people into poverty. Oxfam's UK poverty programme director Chris Johnes said: "Thousands are now turning to food banks, but they do not do so out of choice, they do so when they have nowhere else to turn.
"The staggering rise in the numbers of people using food banks is down to failings in the benefit system, too many low-paid jobs and rising prices that are dragging huge numbers into poverty. Our research with Church Action on Poverty shows that people are using food banks only as a last resort when their falling real incomes do not meet rising costs of living".