Cost-of-living crisis: UK Government accused of 'spectating from sidelines' amid rising food costs

The UK Government has been accused of spectating “from the sidelines” instead of dealing with rising food costs.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon urged ministers to do more.

His comments came in a week that saw governor of the Bank of England claim food prices could be about to reach “apocalyptic” levels.

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Addressing environment secretary George Eustice, Mr McMahon told MPs: “He is speaking like a commentator, a spectator from the sidelines rather than the Sectary of State responsible around the Cabinet table for food security. He seems to be oblivious to the cost-of-living crisis that people are facing.

The Government is not doing enough to intervene on rising food costs, and is instead spectating “from the sidelines”, Labour has said.
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“He can reel off the stats all he wants, but working people know when they go to the supermarket the price of almost everything they are buying is going up and up and up, and all the Government will do is to spectate and commentate from the sides.”

Mr McMahon also said that in Mr Eustice’s own Camborne and Redruth constituency, one food bank alone was giving out 10,000 meals a month.

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He said: “Will he commit even at this late stage to call an urgent cross-government, industry and charity commission to get ahead of the food crisis?

"Because he knows if they don’t get a grip by Christmas, this can be even worse.”

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Mr Eustice had earlier said food prices were returning to 16 per cent of average household income, after experiencing a dip to about 14 per cent for several years.

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The debate also saw Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael call for more support for British food suppliers.

He said: “So is this not the moment to do as the NFU [National Farmers’ Union] ask of the minister, and pause the programme of cuts to basic payments to farmers that this year are going to see their payments cut by 25 per cent, next year by 30 per cent and the year after that by 50 per cent?”

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Mr Eustice replied: “This Government pledged to keep the spending on agriculture in cash terms the same year after year, in this Parliament and that’s precisely what we’re doing.

“We are phasing out the subsidy on landownership, which meant that 50 per cent of the budget went to 10 per cent of the wealthiest landowners in the country, and we are replacing that with a more logical approach, which is about supporting the things that farmers do for the environment.

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“And our sustainable farming incentive in England will actually deliver for that by helping farmers with the cost of alternatives to fertiliser.”

It came as Downing Street denied blocking the Treasury from imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas giants as the Chancellor faced mounting pressure to help ease the cost-of-living crisis with a new package of support.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he had seen “lots of reports” on division between the departments, but insisted Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were “aligned” on the issue.

Labour accused the Government of acting like “headless chickens” on the matter and suggested a U-turn was likely.

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