The efficiency minister has said he “can’t cook” and “would not have said” remarks made by a Tory MP who suggested people use food banks to avoid making their own meals.
Jacob Rees-Mogg became the second minister in as many days to distance himself from the comments made on Wednesday by Lee Anderson in the House of Commons.
Mr Anderson caused outrage after suggesting food bank usage has risen in part because of “generation after generation” of people who are unable to cook or budget properly.
“Somebody in my position cannot possibly say things like that, I can’t cook myself and it wouldn’t be right for me to lecture people on how to live their lives,” Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News on Friday.
His comments echoed those of justice minister Victoria Atkins, who told the programme on Thursday the remarks were “not right”, but said she thought they may have been misinterpreted.
“I think human nature is about empathising with people who live different lives from oneself,” Mr Rees-Mogg added.
Asked whether he disagreed with Mr Anderson over lecturing people on not being able to provide meals for their children at 30p a day, he replied: “I would not have said it.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, who is also Minister of State and Brexit opportunities minister, accepted his circumstances are “very fortunate” when asked about his own experience of the cost-of-living crisis hitting millions, but said he had seen constituents “very significantly” affected.
“My personal circumstances are very fortunate and I think my lecturing people on my own circumstances is not relevant, not helpful. But I do try and help constituents who get in touch with me… and help my constituents who are struggling.”
Pressed on whether he could “genuinely empathise” with people in poverty given his personal wealth, Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he did.
Presenter Niall Paterson said: “You’ll understand that people do sometimes look at you, the three-piece suits, the affectations, the nanny, the Westminster townhouse, the manor house in the countryside, the personal wealth, you’re running perhaps into triple figure millions.”
“That’s simply not true,” Mr Rees-Mogg interjected, but added it was a “very fair question” to ask whether he could understand the struggles of lower-income constituents.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “As a constituency MP you have people come to see you most weeks to discuss how they are living their lives, and you will have to be the most stone-hearted person not to be able to (empathise) when people come to talk to you about how they are living.”