Former Dragon’s Den star slams food inflation as cleaner has to use food banks

Former Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis has said the high cost of food is being “brushed under the carpet” during an appearance on Question Time. Mr Paphitis said mothers and fathers are going without food every single day so their children can eat.

The retail magnate appeared alongside Janet Street Porter, Pensions Minister Laura Trott and Labour MP Peter Kyle, taking questions from a live audience in Gravesend.

Panellists were asked whether it was right for a family with two working adults should have to rely on a food bank during the programme broadcast on BBC1.

Mr Paphitis said: “We don’t seem to be able to deal with it. We talk about inflation going down today, down to 8.3 percent – wherever it was – but actually, food inflation is still running at just under 20 percent.

“When it slows down the prices aren’t going to come down. That’s my concern. It will just go up slower… We know there’s a serious issue with food inflation and that seems to be just brushed under the carpet.”

He added: “That now needs to be addressed because we’ve got to the stage where people can do without lots of things. Mothers, fathers, parents make sacrifices for their children every single day to go without so their children can get food in their bellies.

“The reality now is food’s becoming an actual issue – being able to acquire the food in the first place.”

While overall prices are rising less quickly than in previous months, the cost of food continues to rise at a stubbornly high rate according to the latest official data.

According to the latest information from the Office for National Statistics, price rises were at 8.7 percent in April compared with 10.1 percent in March.

But food inflation was at 19.3 percent, down only slightly on 19.6 percent the previous month and remaining close to the highest rate for more than 45 years.

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The Government was urged on Thursday to reveal if ministers are considering “controls” to stop supermarkets unfairly profiting from food inflation.

Mr Paphitis said: “It’s not fair to blame the supermarkets because there’s a whole supply chain that runs into the supermarkets. You talk about fuel costs. Fuel costs make a massive difference to food prices so they’ve got to be factored in.

“The whole supply chain of getting food onto your plate involves so many inflationary affected services… Credit where it’s due, I think the Government stepped in – absolutely right – on fuel to try and protect everybody through the winter.

“But it didn’t deal with the food aspect of it.”

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Ms Trott said she knew how tough it is at the moment in response to Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce asking how the audience member who put the question can be helped.

The minister added: “We are trying to do all that we can to help. Theo talked about the energy help that we put through that I’m sure you’ve been receiving. So we put the windfall tax on the energy companies which paid half your energy bill over Christmas.

“But we know it’s still really, really high. I totally get that. You’ve also got the cost of living payments… You’ve got the £300 so far this year. You’ve got another £600 coming. Hopefully, that will help a bit as well.”

Ms Trott said the long-term solution is to get inflation down and that is what the Government is working on.

Asked what she made of the minister’s answer, the audience member who put the initial question explained: “There’s a little loophole with Universal Credit. When you get paid four-weekly you get paid 13 times in the year.

“If you happen to get paid twice in one month, you effectively earn too much for Universal Credit and go without… That’s something that needs to be changed.”

Ms Trott said the Government would look at the issue, telling Ms Bruce it was not the first time it had been brought to the attention of ministers.

Twickenham’s Lib-Dem MP Munira Wilson told the Question Time audience that price rises were “incredible” and welcomed the Government getting the Competition and Markets Authority to examine how players in the food chain operate.

She said: “Particularly for families with children… is to make sure that every family that happens to be on Universal Credit that their children [are] entitled to a Free School Meal.”

Ms Wilson added: “In this day and age no child should be going hungry… It is something that would really help children.”

Mr Kyle said it is not just a cost of living or post-Covid phenomena, adding it is a problem that has been emerging for a long time.

He pointed to 12 years of long-term decline in what people’s money can buy every month.

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