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MP’s reaction in food bank debate causes condemnation

19 December 2013

Tory ministers have been condemned for not taking the plight of Britain’s poor seriously after a rowdy Commons debate on food banks, during which Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith refused to answer questions and left early.

Comments made by Esther McVey, Tory MP for Wirral West were described by Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman as the nastiest he had heard in his life.

McVey blamed the spiralling use of food banks on the Labour Party and said it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks. “It is positive that people are reaching out to support other people – from church groups to community groups, to local supermarkets and other groups.

“In the UK it is right that more people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5trillion debt personally which spiralled under Labour, we are all trying to live within our means, change the gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt which happened under them.”

Fiona MacTaggart, Labour MP for Slough, described how people battled over end of day bargains in her local Tesco, but was almost drowned out by laughter and jeering from the government benches. MacTaggart could barely be heard over the braying as she described how the supermarket had been forced to draft in extra security and asked: “Isn't that a shocking sign in the 21st century?”

Labour MP for Copeland in Cumbria, Jamie Reed told The Mirror: “I regret to say the laughter from the government benches says more about this issue than words ever could.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and the remaining government ministers from his department left the debate after an hour, well before its conclusion.

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent said it was ‘extraordinary’ to see Mr Duncan Smith smirking as it was pointed out that half a million people are now using food banks - and the minister refused to answer any questions directly, instead leaving them to be fielded by McVey, who is his deputy.

The Trussell Trust, the nation's largest provider of food banks, with almost 400 branches said it was ‘disappointed’ by the attitude of those who jeered.

Labour had called the debate after nearly 150,000 people signed a petition calling for an inquiry into the growing dependence on food aid. Labour's motion calling on the government to reduce dependency on food bank was eventually defeated by 294 votes to 251, a majority of 43 as Tories and Lib Dems banded together to shout it down.  


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