Food poverty areas have Conservative MPs

Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of 50 Tory MPs representing areas where people suffer from the worst food poverty in Britain.

George Greenwood, Ryan Watts

The Commons leader holds the seat of North East Somerset, which sits in a council area where 7 per cent of households experience hunger. He and 49 other Conservatives have seats that overlap with the top 10 per cent of local authorities for food poverty. Those areas include Salisbury, Rugby and Ashford in Kent.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is planning to cut universal credit by £20 a week by ending a temporary uplift introduced during the pandemic. Last month six former Tory work and pensions secretaries wrote to him demanding an extension.

There are about five million universal credit claimants, twice as many as before the pandemic, and more than a third are in work. A permanent uplift would cost about £6 billion a year.

In January academics at Sheffield University mapped the local authorities with the worst hunger. Of the 100 councils with the worst rates, wards within them are represented by 122 Conservative MPs compared with 76 Labour MPs, The Times found.

Hunger is defined as having skipped food for a whole day or longer in the previous month or someone indicating that they had not eaten because they could not access food.

Wycombe has the highest proportion of households experiencing this, at 14 per cent. Twenty-nine per cent have struggled for food, meaning they skipped meals or ate less, or found help from services such as food banks.

Steve Baker, a leading Conservative backbencher and MP for Wycombe, told ministers that his constituents’ finances had been “tipped over the edge” by the pandemic.

“This alarming report is a wake-up call for ministers,” he told The Guardian. “I have told colleagues time and again during my time in parliament that poverty extends into my constituency in south Buckinghamshire.”

A government spokesman said: “Universal credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, and we announced the temporary uplift as part of a £400 billion package of measures put in place that will last well beyond the end of the road map. Our focus now is on our multibillion-pound Plan for Jobs.”