A senior MP has urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to give thousands of packages of unwanted army food supplies to the "army of the homeless" rather than throwing them away.

Work and Pensions Select Committee chairman Frank Field said that unwanted supplies of surplus operational ration packs (ORPs) should be handed out to homeless people before they go out of date.

New figures released to parliament revealed that more than 12,000 ration packs were thrown away between April and December 2016.

In contrast during the whole of the 2015/16 financial year 10,798 ORPs were destroyed and the year before the figure was 5,004.

Labour MP for Birkenhead since 1979, Field, submitted a written parliamentary question to defence minister asking about the disposal.

Conservative Defence minister Harriett Baldwin responded by saying the MoD threw away 12,275 ORPs between April and December.

Field affirmed that the issue had been repeatedly brought up by food banks due to problems associated with homeless people who often cannot cook or store food.

Field said he was "staggered" by the amount of food packages the MoD throws away.

"The number is going up and they're only destroying it. I just hope someone will look into it. Let's move it from one army to the army of the homeless," he said according to ITV News.

"These supplies are designed for people, in a sense, to eat on the run, and people in doorways are in a similar position. They're ideally constructed for when people haven't got much."

Frank Field
Frank Field said he was "staggered" at the amount of wasted operational ration packs (ORPs) Andrew Parsons /Conservative Party via Getty Images

Baldwin said that all out-of-date ORPs are withdrawn from use in accordance to current food safety legislation.

And an MoD spokesman said the disposal was "a last resort".

They said: "Our stocks of ORPs are managed to make sure they are consumed within the two-year shelf life required to meet our food quality standards.

"We only undertake disposal of ORP as a last resort and only at a point when the product can no longer be consumed.

"Due to the changing nature of exercises or deployments, there will, of course, be occasions when ORP has not been issued before it becomes out of date."