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The Tory Police Minister today slapped down a watchdog’s plea for cops to spare shoplifters who steal to eat.

Kit Malthouse suggested there wasn’t a “connection between poverty and crime” in the cost-of-living crisis.

He branded the plea “old-fashioned”, saying “justice should be blind” regardless of the criminal’s circumstances.

The £115,824-a-year minister added: “There’s a growing body of evidence that says poverty doesn’t cause crime – actually, crime and violence cause poverty.”

It comes after the new HM chief inspector of constabulary said police should use “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute desperate shoplifters.

Andy Cooke told The Guardian petty crime fuelled by 40-year inflation highs would pose a challenge for policing.

Kit Malthouse arriving at a Tory bash in March ( Nigel Howard)

He said of officers: “What they’ve got to bear in mind is what is the best thing for the community, and that individual, in the way they deal with those issue.

“And I certainly fully support police officers using their discretion – and they need to use discretion more often.”

But Mr Malthouse told ITV ’s Good Morning Britain: “I find his thinking a bit old fashioned on that school”

“Because people are challenged financially – they are at the moment, I acknowledge that, the cost of living problems people are facing are very difficult for households up and down the land – the doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to turn to crime.”

He boasted the government had already doubled a hardship fund and raised the minimum wage “to help those people who are really struggling at the bottom of the pile.”

In a glum assessment of help to come, he said the government would try to “squeeze out of the national purse” some more help, but it’d be “what our economy can afford”.

Police should show discretion when arresting shoplifters, the watchdog said ( Getty Images)

He added: “The broad rule is that justice should be blind and I hope and believe that is the principle that sits behind not just the police but the operation of the courts as well.

“People should be turning to the comprehensive package of measures we’ve put in place to help with the cost of living.”

It comes after a food bank in Truro, Cornwall, said it had seen children suffering food poisoning because parents are turning off fridges to save money.

Manager Simon Fann said: “[We have had] reports of children having upset stomachs, or, in worst cases, food poisoning because some parents are turning their fridges and freezers off overnight.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was set to promise business tax cuts this Autumn in a speech to industry chiefs last night – though the autumn reference was dropped from his final speech.

But he is still torn over what to do for ordinary families, with some Tories suggesting tax cuts while others plead for an urgent rise to benefits.

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