Reform's Ann Widdecombe says people don't have a 'right' to cheap food
‘If you can’t afford a cheese sandwich, don’t make a cheese sandwich’: Ex-Tory minister and Reform Party backer Ann Widdecombe says Britons don’t have a ‘right’ to cheap food amid probe into supermarket ‘profiteering’
- The average cost of making a single cheese sandwich at home is now 40p
- The cost has risen by 37 per cent in the past year, according to recent research
A former Tory minister said families don’t have a ‘right’ to low food prices as she told people to live within their means.
Ann Widdecombe said that people who cannot afford to make a cheese sandwich should not ‘do the cheese sandwich’.
Ms Widdecombe, 75, who was a Brexit Party MEP and now backs the Reform Party, made the comments on the BBC’s Politics Live programme in a debate about soaring food prices.
The average cost of making a single cheese sandwich at home is now 40p, up 37 per cent in the past year, according to research conducted last month.
The competition watchdog is to investigate whether ‘any failure in competition’ is leaving consumers paying higher grocery and fuel prices than they should be.
But Ms Widdecombe laid the blame at wage demands being made by public sector workers, although she added that historically supermarkets held the ‘whip hand’ over producers.
Citing inflation in the 1970s she added: ‘We just have to be as grown-up about this as we can and stop thinking it is solely a UK problem, because it isn’t.
‘We also just have to learn the lessons of the past, which is that prices follow wages, follow prices, follow wages.’
Presenter Jo Coburn asked: ‘What do you say to consumers who literally can’t afford to pay for even some of the basics if they have gone up the way that cheese sandwich has, with all its ingredients?’
She replied: ‘Well then you don’t do the cheese sandwich … because we have been decades without inflation we have come to regard it as some sort of given right that our food doesn’t go up.
Ann Widdecombe said that people who cannot afford to make a cheese sandwich should not ‘do the cheese sandwich’
The competition watchdog is to investigate whether ‘any failure in competition’ is leaving consumers paying higher grocery and fuel prices than they should be
Blessed are the cheesemakers: PM Rishi Sunak meets a maker at a Farm to Fork event at No10 today
‘I used to represent a rural constituency, and even then – and I have been retired 13 years – the farmers would complain constantly about the supermarkets, about their demands … about their pricing, and they appeared to hold the whip hand. And that doesn’t appear to have changed.
‘The only way this is going to be tackled is if inflation comes down, you will not get inflation coming down while you have inflationary wage rises. And we have got to face that. Some of the wage demands at the moment are utterly unrealistic.
‘I lived through the 70s and that is exactly what happened.’
She is the latest political figure to question how hard is it to afford food.
A year ago Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, who earns £84,144 a year as an MP, caused uproar after he claimed that Brits ‘can’t budget’ and there was ‘not this massive use for food banks’ in Britain.
He also invited opposition MPs to visit a scheme in his constituency that represented ‘a real food bank’ and allowed people to ‘make a meal for about 30p a day’.
It saw his critics dub him ’30p Lee’.
Supermarket food basics including meat, yoghurt and vegetables have doubled in price since last year, figures show.
Consumer watchdog Which? urged the Prime Minister to intervene on behalf of struggling shoppers as its latest data shows food inflation remains at ‘shockingly high levels’.
The figures come ahead of today’s Downing Street ‘Farm to Fork Summit’, bringing together farmers’ representatives and food and retail trade bodies along with supermarket chiefs to talk about the Government’s goal of boosting cooperation across the supply chain, the sector’s resilience and rampant food inflation.
The Which? analysis of April prices on more than 26,000 food and drink products at Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose found inflation in categories that have previously seen the highest rises – including milk, butter and bakery items – has eased slightly.
Overall inflation has also started to ease slightly, from 17.2 per cent in March to 17.1 per cent to the end of April, according to the tracker.
Supermarket own-label budget items were up 25 per cent in April on 12 months ago, demonstrating how low-income shoppers are being hit hard by soaring inflation.
Branded goods, meanwhile, showed no change on March, staying at 13.8 per cent higher than last April. Regular own-brand food and premium own-brand food inflation decreased slightly.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had not seen evidence pointing to specific competition concerns in the grocery sector ‘at this stage’, but it was ‘important to be sure that weak competition is not adding to the problems’.
The CMA said: ‘Given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are announcing the stepping up of our work in the grocery sector to understand whether any failure in competition is contributing to grocery prices being higher than they would be in a well-functioning market.’
The watchdog said it will assess how competition is working overall in the grocery retail market, and identify which product categories, if any, ‘might merit closer examination across the supply chain’. It will provide an update on its work over the coming months.
CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said: ‘Grocery and food shopping are essential purchases.
‘We recognise that global factors are behind many of the grocery price increases, and we have seen no evidence at this stage of specific competition problems.
‘But, given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well and people can exercise choice with confidence.’
Why are food prices rising in the UK? Cost of meat, yoghurt and vegetables double – here’s what you need to know
Supermarket food basics including some meat, yoghurt and vegetables have doubled in price since last year, figures show.
Consumer watchdog Which? urged the Prime Minister to intervene on behalf of struggling shoppers as its latest data shows food inflation remaining at ‘shockingly high levels’.
So, why are food prices rising in the UK? Will food prices go down any time soon?
Here is everything you need to know about the rise of food prices in the UK.
Why are food prices rising?
Food producers have been forced to increase their prices due to the rate of inflation, which has seen brands increase the cost of items such as meat, yoghurt and vegetables, which have doubled in price.
The UK minimum wage has also played a factor in the rise in food prices. It has risen from £6.70 in 2015 to £10.42 as of April 2023.
Supermarket own-label budget items were up 25 per cent in April 2023 compared to April 2022, hitting low-income shoppers hard.
Branded goods, meanwhile, did not change in price in March 2023, staying at 13.8 per cent higher than April 2022. Regular own-brand food and premium own-brand food inflation decreased slightly.
Rebecca Tobi, senior business and investor engagement manager at The Food Foundation, said: ‘We know that the current food price crisis is causing a great many households to cut back on essentials.
‘With levels of food poverty among children having doubled in the year to January 2023, government and businesses must act urgently to ensure that everyone can afford and access healthy essentials like fruit and vegetables.
‘If not, we will be seeing the long-term health and economic consequences of the cost of living crisis playing out for years to come.’
Supermarket own-label budget items were up 25 per cent in April 2023 compared to April 2022
How did Covid affect food prices?
As countries imposed lockdowns and people were forced to stay at home from early 2020, many chose to stockpile essentials, such as toilet paper and masks, resulting in a shortage of items due to unprecedented demand.
Following the initial onset of the pandemic, food prices rose consistently in the 17 months up to December 2022.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, in December 2022, food price inflation was at its highest since September 1977 when, according to ONS estimates, the rate was 17.6 per cent.
So while Covid did not directly affect the dramatic rise in food prices, it played a part in price hikes due to an increased demand for goods.
Food and drink prices have remained high despite a slight decrease in overall inflation, which has dropped from 17.2 per cent in March 2023 to 17.1 per cent in April 2023, analysis by Which? shows
Does the war in Ukraine affect food prices?
Following the devastating impact of coronavirus, global supply chains were under significant pressure before the war in Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine has added to food supply chain pressures, with trade supply issues and a disruption to the supply of fertiliser resulting in a hike in food prices across the UK’s supermarkets.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) told Sky News: ‘There’s a real challenge when you look at what has happened.
‘We have had the most affordable food in Europe for a very long time, and we still do have the most affordable food here per income spend and we’re the third most affordable in the entire world.
‘That’s really good for consumers, but these costs, this war in Ukraine is a game changer.
Will UK food prices go down?
Consumer watchdog Which? has urged the Prime Minister to intervene on behalf of struggling shoppers as its latest data shows food inflation remaining at ‘shockingly high levels’.
At Asda, the price of Morliny Frankfurters (350g) has increased from £1.25 a year ago to £2.42 now – a rise of 93.8 per cent.
A pack of four brown onions at Morrisons went from 65p to £1.24, a 90.8 per cent rise over 12 months.
Also at Morrisons, Lancashire Farm Natural Bio Yoghurt 1kg went up from £1.18 to £2.18 over the year, a rise of 85.3 per cent.
Although prices on products such as juice, chocolate, water, fish, chilled ready meals and cheese have increased, inflation on other products was found to have reduced slightly.
Price hikes on milk, butters, spreads and bakery items has eased slightly, as overall inflation decrease from 17.2 per cent in March 2023 to 17.1 per cent in April 2023, according to analysis by Which?
Sue Davies, Which? head of food policy, said: ‘It’s very alarming to see products such as meat, cheese and vegetables that people rely on still rapidly soaring in price.
‘Supermarkets must also provide transparent pricing so people can easily work out which products offer the best value.’
Although prices on products such as juice, chocolate, water, fish, chilled ready meals and cheese have increased, inflation on other products including milk and butters was found to have reduced
What is the best way to save money on food?
Amid the soaring cost of living, shoppers will be looking to save money on their food shop wherever possible.
Low-cost supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl are renowned for having the best-value prices when it comes to food and drink, but customers should compare prices at different brands to see where their shop works out cheapest.
Using loyalty cards such as the Tesco Clubcard, as well as Sainsbury’s recently introduced Nectar Prices scheme, can help customers save on items that chains have chosen to offer discounts on.
Cooking meals in batches – rather than doing so individually – will not only save you time in the kitchen, but can make your money go further too.
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