Food Banks

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 17th December 2014.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields 5:48 pm, 17th December 2014

I want to make some progress.

That is not just my view, but the view of the brave people and selfless organisations that gave evidence to our inquiry. Time and again, people cited the changes in the welfare state as a primary driver to the food bank. It would be a total injustice not to acknowledge that. It is a national disgrace that food banks have become a part of the fabric of our society, but I thank God that they are there, for the truth is that, if the food banks and the faith groups were not plugging the gaps left by the state, people would be starving. There is no common sense or humanity in the system any more.

We heard from a number of agencies about the culture change at the Department for Work and Pensions. The system now exists to catch people out, not to help them. That culture change has been led by those at the top, those in the Government who want to scapegoat the poor. We see that attitude when Ministers deny that welfare reform has led to people going hungry, which completely ignores the experiences of all our constituents. Ministers accuse critics of welfare reform of playing politics. I wonder whether they would have the gall to face some of the hungry people in my constituency and tell them that. It is not playing politics; it is the reality of life in our country nowadays.

People are going hungry, and, with each passing day of this terrible excuse for a Government, more and more are falling into poverty, with little or no chance of escape. There are no second chances in Britain today. Food poverty is a clear consequence of the Government’s ideological assault on the social safety net and the people who rely on it. One hungry person is a complete disgrace, but thousands of hungry people are a national disaster. I want us to try to consign this age of hunger to the history books. I know that that can best be achieved under a Labour Government.