In his contribution to the Queen’s speech debate the Conservative MP Lee Anderson said that a food bank in his Ashfield constituency operated a “brilliant scheme” whereby people accepting a donation had to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course. He went on:
We show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget. We can make a meal for about 30p a day, and this is cooking from scratch.
When the Labour MP Alex Cunningham put it to Anderson that food banks should not be needed in 21st century Britain, Anderson agreed. He went on:
This is exactly my point. I’ll invite you personally to come to Ashfield, look at our food bank, how it works. And I’ll think you’ll see first hand that there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country. We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget. The challenge is there.
From the context, it is clear that when he said there was not a “massive use for food banks”, he meant no massive need for them.
More reaction now to those comments on food banks from Tory MP Lee Anderson, this time from Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress.
“Many people who use food banks are in work. These remarks are insulting and show how out of touch Conservative MPs and ministers are with the cost of living emergency,” O’Grady said.
“While the government sits on its hands, families across Britain are being pushed to the brink by soaring bills and prices.
“Rather than being condescending, Conservative politicians should be putting pressure on the chancellor to call an emergency budget.”
Footage shows London mayor Sadiq Khan throwing the opening pitch at a baseball game at the San Fransisco Giants’ stadium.
It comes during a four-day trip to the US by the mayor to promote the UK capital to international investors and help support its recovery from the pandemic.
Inviting a guest of honour to throw the first pitch at a baseball game is a longstanding tradition in the US, with the country’s presidents going back to the late 19th century often taking part.
Khan threw the first pitch at a game between the hometown Giants and the Colorado Rockies at the Oracle Park stadium.
It follows the announcement that Major League Baseball will play regular-season games in London in 2023, 2024 and 2026 as part of a long-term strategic partnership.
Tory MP and chair of the Treasury select committee Mel Stride has said he expects the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to announce measures to help tackle the cost of living crisis “in a matter of weeks”.
Speaking to Times Radio, Stride said: “There is an absolute urgency to this. And there will be lots of thinking going on in the Treasury.
“And I suspect, the chancellor – whether we call it an emergency budget, or just a statement of the House, or whatever it’s dressed up as – I think the chancellor will be, I suspect, having more to say in a matter of weeks, or a month or so, rather than waiting right until the autumn of this year.”
Speaking last month, Sunak said it would be “silly” to announce more measures to help with energy bills before it was known how much prices would rise in the coming months, though pledged to look again at more support in the autumn.
Stride continued: “My bet, for what it’s worth, is that I think the pressure will be such that he will be appearing before the House well before the autumn, laying out various things. He might wait for some of the stuff around energy to see where that energy cap is going to be raised in the autumn. So he might leave that a little bit later.
“But I think in the meantime, I suspect there will be various things wheeled out not just by the chancellor, but other ministers as well, all of them focused on this burning issue of the cost of living challenge.”
Karen Buck MP, Labour’s shadow work and pensions minister, has responded to a claim by Conservative MP Lee Anderson that people use food banks because they “cannot cook properly [or] budget” (see the pinned post at the top of the blog for the clip).
Buck said: “In the world where people actually live we now hear daily stories of families going without food and others unable to turn their ovens on in fear of rising energy bills.
“The idea that the problem is cooking skills and not 12 years of government decisions that are pushing people into extreme poverty is beyond belief.
“Out of touch doesn’t even cover it.”
The UK’s three human rights commissions have expressed concern about plans to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a British bill of rights, as announced in Tuesday’s Queen’s speech.
In evidence before parliament’s joint committee on human rights, senior figures from all three commissions (for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively) highlighted the achievements of the HRA and said there was no case for it to be replaced.
Alyson Kilpatrick, chief executive at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said: “We would certainly want to see the Human Rights Act strengthened, not diminished.
“We don’t recognise the basis upon which these proposals have been put forward, certainly not in Northern Ireland, and we think it has paid scant regard, in fact, to the impact that has been seen in Northern Ireland of stronger human rights and protection. So we would be very concerned to see any weakening of the Human Rights Act by replacement or amended bill of rights.”
She said the HRA was central to the peace process and that the police in Northern Ireland had been “transformed beyond recognition” as a result of having to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights, which was given effect in UK law by the HRA.
Barbara Bolton, head of legal and policy at the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “The Scottish Human Rights Commission is extremely concerned about the proposals and the severe negative impact that those proposals would have on access to justice and access to a remedy for individuals across society and the potential that this would leave the UK in breach in particular, of Article 13 (right to remedy) of the European Convention (of Human Rights).”
She also said repealing the HRA had “potential for unsettling devolution” because it is embedded in the Scotland Act, which provides for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and administration.
Baroness Falkner, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (which covers England and Wales), said the HRA “has played and continues to play a vital role in strengthening the protection of human rights in the United Kingdom”.
She recognised that the government has specific concerns “but that doesn’t to us build a convincing case for an overall deep and substantive review of the act of this point”.
Boris Johnson has also commented on the cost of living crisis at the press conference in Helsinki. It was put to him by LBC’s Nick Ferrari that he was “very good at supporting Ukraine, but … lamentably poor at supporting your own people”.
He responded: “What we’ve got to do right now is help people through the aftershocks of the Covid pandemic just as we helped people through Covid, and we will. Everybody knows how tough it can be right now, but we’re going to get through it.
“You know all the money we’re already spending. There will be more. Of course there will be more support in the months ahead as things continue to be tough with the increase in the energy prices.”
He then added: “But I just want to explain to people why it is so important that we stand strong against aggression in Ukraine at the same time.
“Because there is no doubt at all, looking at what Vladimir Putin has done, that if he were not to be resisted … this would not be the end of his neo-imperialist, revanchist ambitions.
“And just imagine the consequences, not just military or political, but economic, of further Russian aggression against any of the other former parts of the Soviet Union. And it’s to prevent that further catastrophe that it’s so important that we are together strong now.”
A press conference held jointly by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, is getting under way in Helsinki. The prime minister has visited both Sweden and Finland today to sign mutual security declarations with both countries.
Asked by a journalist from Sweden’s public broadcaster, Svenska Yle, whether the declaration would mean British boots on the ground on Finnish territory in the event of a conflict with Russia, he says: “Let me be clear, because I think the solemn declaration is itself clear.
“And what it says is that in the event of a disaster or in the event of an attack on either of us, then yes we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance. But the nature of that assistance will of course depend upon the request of the other party.
“But it’s also intended to be the foundation of an intensification of our security and our defence relationship in other ways as well.”
The Child Poverty Action Group has accused the Tory MP Lee Anderson of “insulting” people who rely on food banks in the Commons earlier. (See 3.21pm.) Alison Garnham, its chief executive, said:
Four million children are living in poverty in the UK, and it’s not because their parents can’t cook.
There are few households better at budgeting than those on a low income, they have to do it every single day.
Rather than insulting parents who have no option but to use foodbanks in the face of soaring costs and real terms income cuts, politicians would do better to back real-world solutions, like bringing benefits in line with inflation this autumn.
That is all from me for today. My colleague Christy Cooney is now taking over.
The UK will probably have to go through a “mild recession” if not worse before inflation comes back to a more manageable level, top economists have warned MPs. PA Media reports:
London School of Economics professor Charles Goodhart said that wages and prices were feeding off each other to push up inflation, and this could not be weakened without the labour market weakening.
“The likelihood is that we’re going to have to have at the very least a mild recession and unemployment rising,” he told MPs on the Treasury select committee.
His comments were echoed by Adam Posen, the president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
“The sad reality is there is going to have to be an economic slowdown in the UK beyond what is already on the cards in order to get inflation sustainably back to target,” he said.
Posen said that the UK was facing problems that are more like those seen in the US, despite pursuing a more European approach to stimulating the economy during Brexit.
“To me this tells you that this is something idiosyncratic to the UK about how the same inflation shock of Covid reopening, of energy prices, of Ukraine, is being transmitted to the UK,” he said.
“I think a large part of this is Brexit, because what has happened is you don’t have the flexible labour supply of migrants coming from Europe, who can both add to the labour supply, but also go in and out of work as needed.”
Last week the Bank of England raised interest rates to 1%, the highest for 13 years, in a bid to combat soaring inflation.
It predicts that inflation could rise to above 10% later this year.
Boris Johnson has also restated the government’s intention to do more to help people with the cost of living, the Sun’s Kate Ferguson reports.
For some time now the government has been saying further help for people with the cost of living will come later this year. What is uncertain is when this might arrive (originally the plan was to wait until late summer for the next massive intervention, but the government is under pressure to bring that forward), and what form it will take (tax cuts, grants or welfare payments?).
In an interview with ITV, Boris Johnson was asked again whether he would resgin over Partygate, in the light of Keir Starmer’s announcement that he will resign if he is fined. Johnson ignored the question completely and just spoke about Ukraine, and the new security assurances.
Stephen Crabb, the former work and pensions secretary, has posted this on Twitter explaining why he thinks the government needs to do more to address the cost of living crisis.
Crabb is on the one nation, left of the Conservative party. David Davis is on the Thatcherite right. If both of them (see 2.41pm), are demanding some sort of significant, cost of living bailout, then there are probably few MPs in the party who aren’t.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, says the Tories can no longer claim to be the party of home ownership. In a statement commenting on Michael Gove’s admission this morning that the Conservatives are no longer committed to the manifesto target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s (see 9.35am), she said:
Under the Conservatives housing has become less affordable, spending on rent has skyrocketed, and home ownership has gone down. All this puts more pressure on families facing a cost of living crisis.
The Conservatives can no longer claim to be the party of home ownership. We need a government that will take action now to help people who are struggling with rising bills and prices, and that will invest to give them the long-term security of owning their own home.
According to Labour, average house prices in England rose by 56% between 2010 and 2021, while average wages went up by just 20%. The party also says that in England there were 211,000 fewer working-age homeowners in 2020-21 than in 2009-10.
A reader BTL (below the line) has been in touch to say that taking visiting dignitaries out in the rowing boat is a tradition for Swedish prime ministers when they have visitors at their country retreat.
Boris Johnson has entered the caption competition. (See 2.27pm.)
In the course of a Twitter exchange with Adam Wagner, the barrister and Covid regulations specialist, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, says Johnson was personally involved in the government’s decision in 2020 to exempt grouse shooting from Covid rules.
By “chief”, Cummings is referring to the chief whip – at the time Mark Spencer.