Environment Secretary Therese Coffey sparked a new row today when she said Britons struggling with food bills should “put in a few more hours”.
The mistake-prone Cabinet minister was branded “appalling” for her “shocking” comments by a Labor MP when they clashed in the House of Commons.
The dispute came as Ms Coffey admitted that the cost of living crisis was “really difficult” for UK families.
He added that “one of the best ways” for people to increase their income is to “potentially work a few more hours, improve your skills, earn more income.”
The dispute is the latest in a series of controversies involving Ms Coffey, who has been dubbed ‘Calamity Coffey’ by critics.
Therese Coffey said “one of the best ways” for people to increase their pay when struggling with food bills was to “potentially work a few more hours, improve your skills and earn a higher income.”
Labor MP Rachael Maskell was heard saying “that’s terrible” as Ms Coffey responded to her concerns about destocking of food banks in York.
From ‘abandoned’ nurses to ’30p Lee’: Tory screw up poor Brits
Late last year, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan sparked fury when she said nurses “usually” only use food banks in Britain if they’ve been knocked over or their boiler broke. She was accused of an “astonishing lack of empathy” over the comments, which she made in a television interview while wearing a £10,000 Rolex watch.
Ashfield MP Lee Anderson sparked a row in May last year when he told the Commons there was no “mass use” of food banks in Britain. Anderson, who has since been appointed vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, subsequently offered “proof” that meals can be cooked for 30p each. He is now often referred to as ’30p Lee’.
When he was briefly Tory chairman last year, Sir Jake Berry gave advice to people struggling with high energy bills.
“People know that when their bills come, they can either cut down on their consumption or they can get a higher salary, higher salaries, go out and get that new job,” he told Sky News. “That is the approach that the Government is taking so that households can pay their bills.”
Jacob Rees Mogg
In 2017, influential Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg came under fire from charities after he suggested that a rapid increase in the number of food banks was “quite encouraging”. He added that it “shows what a good and compassionate country we are.”
Two years later he unleashed a fury and apologized after suggesting that Grenfell residents who followed fire brigade instructions to “stand still” during the disastrous fire that killed 73 people lacked “common sense”.
In January 2020, Sir Desmond Swayne apologized after he was criticized for saying that poor people are the “fatterest” and need to be taught to shop healthier. The former minister said families with benefits forced to turn to food banks should learn how to make food purchases “more profitable.”
In 2010, the Eton-educated former minister described members of his constituency as “thread-holding people” who lived in “quite primitive” areas. The then MP for Penrith and the Borders also made a joke about people not getting medical help for a child hit by a tractor.
Yesterday, Ms Coffey was jeered at the National Farmers Union conference after she insisted the UK egg shortage had not been caused by ‘market failure’.
She also previously clashed with English footballer Marcus Rashford over her free school meals campaign and was criticized for singing ‘Time of My Life’ when Universal Credit’s raise ended when she was work and pensions secretary.
Last year, when her ally Liz Truss appointed her as health secretary, Ms Coffey admitted she was “not a role model” after being questioned about her enthusiasm for a drink and a cigar.
During environmental questions in the House of Commons this morning, Rachael Maskell of the Labor Party questioned Mrs Coffey about Brits struggling to pay for food purchases.
The York Central MP said: ‘With the ONS highlighting a 16.8 per cent rise in food prices in the year to January, the Government has built its food poverty infrastructure on reliance on voluntary donations and waste donations retailers.
“However, due to demand, food banks in York are drying up, depleting food supplies.”
Ms Maskell said she is organizing a donation day to help bring in supplies and distribute them to those in need, adding: ‘We call it York Together because we support each other.
‘However, what is the government doing to make sure that no one is left with nothing?’
Ms Coffey responded: ‘You are right to praise the initiative in York with your constituents and I think that is very welcome. It is an element of what can also be done locally.
‘But we talk about aspects of the price of food. Inflation is really tough right now, there’s no question about that, and I’m aware, however, that we still have a situation where generally across Europe we have one of the lowest proportions of our income going spend on food. Supermarkets have been very competitive.
‘But I do want to encourage her to also work supporting the domestic support fund which is meant for people in special need.
“But of course we know that one of the best ways to increase your income is not just to work if you aren’t already, but to work a few more hours, improve your skills and earn a higher income.
“But of course the local welfare grant that the central government gave to local councils some time ago is also there for them to use.”
Ms Maskell was heard saying “that’s appalling” as Ms Coffey responded to her concerns about food bank stocks running out in York.
Speaking later, he added: ‘It is shocking that the Environment Secretary is blaming people for food poverty because they are low paid and poor, expecting them to work even longer hours to put food on the table.
“People go hungry, often limiting themselves to one small meal a day or skipping meals altogether.
“It is time that your government supported families in need, not making them work more to earn a crumb.”
Labor MP Nadia Whittome said: “This government is completely out of touch with the working class.”
Environment Secretary suggests Brits should eat TURNIPS instead of tomatoes amid supermarket shortages
Eating turnips could help stave off fruit and vegetable shortages in UK supermarkets during the winter months, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey suggested today.
He told the parliamentarians that the continued shortage of products will be a temporary problem that should be resolved in two to four weeks.
He added that the UK should “appreciate the specialities” it has and that “a lot of people would be eating turnips right now” under a seasonal food model, rather than lettuce, tomatoes and the like.
Ms Coffey went on to acknowledge that buyers want a ‘year round option’.
His comments came after fellow Tory Selaine Saxby said supermarkets are importing “too much produce” and suggested that eating seasonally would solve the problem.
Tomato shortages in UK supermarkets have spread to other fruit and vegetables due to a combination of bad weather and transport problems in Africa and Europe.
Some supermarkets have introduced customer limits on certain fresh produce, with pictures popping up of empty shelves.