Minister: buy own-brand food to beat cost of living crisis

‘Out of touch’ minister George Eustice is slammed for telling struggling families to buy own-brand ‘value’ supermarket food to help them cope with the cost of living crisis

  • Eustice made the remarks as he was grilled about current cost of living crisis 
  • Price of groceries in Britain is now increasing at its fastest rate in 11 years 
  • Eustice: ‘By going for the value brands (people) can contain their budget’ 

A wealthy Cabinet minister  was slammed as out of touch today after telling families struggling to pay bills and put food on the table to switch to supermarket ‘value’ products.

Environment Secretary George Eustice made the remarks as he was grilled about the cost of living crisis gripping Britain.

This week it was revealed the price of groceries in Britain is now increasing at its fastest rate in 11 years, adding an extra £271 to the amount average households will pay at the till this year.

Sunflower oil, wheat and oil prices have been affected by the war in Ukraine, while gas prices were already going skywards before the conflict began in February.  

Prices are rising fastest in products such as fresh lamb and beef, savoury snacks and crisps as surging prices cause the biggest squeeze on UK household incomes since the 1950s. Other products rising most rapidly include frozen potato-based products, canned colas, fresh poultry and milk.

But asked about the problems on Sky News today, Mr Eustice, whose family owns a fruit farm in Cornwall, said: ‘Generally speaking, what people find is by going for some of the value brands rather than own-branded products – they can actually contain and manage their household budget.

‘It (inflation) will undoubtedly put a pressure on household budgets and, of course, it comes on top of those high gas prices as well.’

Shadow Treasury chief secretary Pat McFadden said: ‘This is woefully out of touch from a Government with no solution to the cost-of-living crisis facing working people.

This week it was revealed the price of groceries in Britain is now increasing at its fastest rate in 11 years, adding an extra £271 to the amount average households will pay at the till this year.

Shadow Treasury chief secretary Pat McFadden said: ‘This is woefully out of touch from a Government with no solution to the cost-of-living crisis facing working people.

Environment Secretary George Eustice made the remarks as he was grilled about the cost of living crisis gripping Britain.

‘People are seeing their wages fall, fuel and food costs rise, and families are worried about how to make ends meet.

‘It’s time for the Government to get real help to people rather than comments that simply expose how little they understand about the real struggles people are facing to pay their bills.’

Mr Eustice defended farmers, saying they were raising prices to cope with bill increases of their own. 

‘The better news is that we have a very, very competitive retail market with 10 big supermarkets and the four main ones competing very aggressively, particularly on some of the lower-cost, everyday value items for households, so things like spaghetti and ambient products – there’s a lot of competition to keep those prices down,’ he said.

‘Where it gets harder is on things like chicken and poultry, and some fresh produce, where those increased feed costs do end up getting passed through the system because these people work on wafer-thin margins and they have to pass that cost through.’

He also cautioned against ‘throwing more money’ at tackling the cost-of-living crisis, warning it could send inflation even higher.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’re seeing inflationary pressures right around the world, inflation running at over 7 per cent in the United States and higher still in the EU and, yes, inflation growing here as well.

‘If, on top of that, we were to borrow more money and have that fiscal loosening and spend more money into that environment, there would be a real danger that inflation would start to spiral out of control ad would get beyond our reach, and then we would have some difficulties.’

Asked if that means benefit and pensions cannot keep pace with the rising cost of living, Mr Eustice said: ‘What we’re saying is we can’t borrow money, and throw more money to get people, to get us out of this difficulty, because it’s an inflationary environment.’

He said Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out a ‘very clear package of measures to mitigate the impacts of those price rises, not removing them altogether’.

Boris Johnson yesterday admitted there was more that could be done to provide help for hard-pressed Britons during the cost-of-living crisis. 

In a gruelling TV interview, the Prime Minister at one point insisted his Government was doing ‘everything we can’ to help households with soaring prices.

But, minutes later, Mr Johnson acknowledged that there was room for greater action in helping Britons to pay sky-high energy bills.

The PM conceded that the rate of inflation could hit 10 per cent and cited the ‘crazy’ cost of chickens as an example of the huge squeeze on Britons’ incomes.

In response to Mr Eustice’s comments on value brands, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘These comments show George Eustice and the Conservatives are living in a parallel universe.

‘Families and pensioners who can’t afford their weekly shop need more help, not patronising advice from a clueless minister.

‘This is the stark reality of Boris Johnson’s Britain. Oil and gas giants are raking in billions, while families are told to buy value food and pensioners are riding around on buses to keep warm.’

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