Tory MP says people on benefits need help with how to spend their money

James MorrisSenior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Sir Desmond Swayne pictured in 2016 (Tajikistan Presidency Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Sir Desmond Swayne pictured in 2016 (Tajikistan Presidency Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A Tory MP has said people who receive benefits need “help” with how to spend their money.

In a blog about local food bank use on his website, New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne called for “more understanding” of people’s spending habits as he discussed childhood obesity.

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He has been MP for the Hampshire constituency since 1997 and won a 24,403 majority in last month’s general election.

The former private secretary to David Cameron wrote this week: “I do believe that we need to get at more a fundamental understanding of how recipients of benefits actually spend the welfare payments that they receive.

A file image of Sir Desmond Swayne asleep in the Commons in 2018 (PA)
A file image of Sir Desmond Swayne asleep in the Commons in 2018 (PA)

“The shocking statistic is that one in five of our children is obese by the time they leave primary school, and that this disproportionately affects those children in the lowest household incomes.”

He went on: “To put it bluntly (and in the terms that elicited shouts of protest at the hustings): the poorest are amongst the fattest.

Sir Desmond Swayne pictured in 2010 (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Sir Desmond Swayne pictured in 2010 (REUTERS/Toby Melville)

“The conclusion that I draw is that their families need, in addition to welfare payments, help with how to shop more cost effectively and healthily.”

Of food banks, he wrote: “There was a measure of surprise when I stated my view that food banks were a proper and welcome response by voluntary organisations and individuals to a need that exists and which it is difficult for state agencies to address.

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“There never was a golden age when the need that food banks address did not exist. When families or individuals experience a crisis they make use of food banks because they need to, and because they are available. In times before food banks existed they would, in the first instance, rely on the wider family for help, and in desperation they might even have recourse to loan sharks. Food banks address a need, and we should thank those volunteers who give their time, money and substance.”

On Wednesday, Scottish Tory leadership hopeful Michelle Ballantyne defended past comments in which she said people on benefits cannot be allowed to have as many children as they like.

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