General election: Labour and SNP leaders say they'd offer to buy baby formula if they saw parent stealing it

25 June 2024, 13:12 | Updated: 25 June 2024, 14:50

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Scottish First Minister John Swinney have both said they would offer to pay if they saw a struggling parent stealing baby formula milk. 

The main party leaders were asked by the Big Issue if they would intervene if they saw the situation in the shops.

The hidden crisis of families struggling to afford baby formula was first highlighted by a Sky News investigation last year.

It led to supermarkets cutting prices and a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into allegations that companies manufacturing baby formula were profiteering at the cost of British parents.

The Big Issue spoke to party leaders and pressed them on what they would do to help.

Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said they would highlight other cost-of-living support to a family struggling to afford baby formula.

"I'd offer to pay it," Sir Keir Starmer said.

"The desperation of families around the country should make the Tories feel nothing but shame" he added.

"Of course, shoplifting is a problem for businesses, so we'd have 13,000 more neighbourhood police to provide reassurance on our high streets.

"But we'd also change the rules so people could use food bank vouchers and loyalty card points to buy baby formula."

Sunak says Tories would help parents if re-elected

Mr Sunak told the Big Issue: "Shoplifting is not a victimless crime and we'll always support shopkeepers to prevent theft. At the same time, we will continue to help parents with the cost of living."

Sir Ed said: "I'd try and try to persuade [the parent] not to, obviously. Try and find them other help, that would be the best way of doing it."

Mr Swinney, the SNP leader, added: "I'd discreetly offer to pay as no parent should ever have to face this situation.

"Sadly, this is not hypothetical - I meet with my constituents, and people across Scotland, every week who face this kind of hardship."

Read more:
Conservatives withdraw support for scandal candidates
Davey on decision to talk about disabled son
Idris Elba backs Starmer on knife crime pledges

Infant feeding specialist and founder of Feed UK Dr Erin Williams told Sky News: "I think it shows real empathy and that hopefully they get it... they can see just how serious this is for some families.

"If Keir Starmer is in Number 10 Downing St soon, he needs to follow through on the promises quickly and work hard to stop parents finding themselves in these positions.

"We need big political focus on the reasons why families are struggling this much… that includes benefits, job security and so much more."