A Tory MP is standing by comments he made that firefighters earning £32,000 a year who use food banks should “learn how to budget”.
Brendan Clarke-Smith tweeted that the idea of people on this money using a food bank was the most “ridiculous” thing he had heard.
“If true”, he added, they should learn “how to budget and prioritise”.
His remarks sparked a row, with many people highlighting the soaring costs of energy, food, fuel and rent.
The MP for Bassetlaw, in Nottinghamshire, denied claims his comments were “patronising”, telling the BBC there was a general need across the population for people to learn how to manage their finances better.
He also pointed to “many things” he said the government had done to help people with the cost of living, including their energy bills.
But, he told the BBC, it was wrong to “trivialise” food banks and to use them as a “catch-all term” every time there was a pay dispute.
Most people in his Bassetlaw constituency had to manage on less than £32,000 a year, he added, and the median salary in the area was £25,800.
Critics on social media noted that MPs earn a basic annual salary of £84,144, and can claim expenses for accommodation, office costs and travel.
In an interview on Tuesday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper distanced himself from Mr Clarke-Smith’s comments, telling LBC: “I wouldn’t put things in the way that he has.”
In November, The Trussell Trust charity reported it had provided 1.3m emergency food parcels to people between April and September, almost half a million of them to children.
Mr Clarke-Smith was responding to a tweet from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which said: “Freedom of Information requests reveal that Chief Fire Officers are on average on £148,000 – whilst many ordinary firefighters, on £32,244, are forced to foodbanks.”
He replied: “I respect the profession, but £32,244 and using a foodbank? Never heard such a ridiculous thing in my life.
“I earned a lot less than that for most of my teaching career and so do many of my constituents. If true, which is unlikely, I suggest learning how to budget and prioritise.”
In a column for the Worksop Guardian published on Friday, Mr Clarke-Smith said he had been dismayed by the FBU’s food bank claim.
He said anyone could fall on hard times and have to use food banks, regardless of their income.
This could be for a variety of reasons, including a short-term cashflow problem or a family tragedy, he added.
Another Nottinghamshire Conservative MP recently sparked a backlash when he suggested that striking nurses who used food banks were not managing their money properly.
Lee Anderson, who represents Ashfield, said: “I heard some nonsense a few weeks back that nurses were actually stealing food off patients’ plates. I don’t believe it.
“Anybody earning 30-odd-grand a year, which most nurses are, using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances.”