What they really said at the #foodbankdebate: Spot the difference between MPs speeches.

What they said at the food bank debate, excerpts from Hansard:

Maria Eagle (Lab): Britain can do better than this. We need a long-term plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and reduce dependency on food banks, including a freeze on energy prices while we reset the market, a water affordability scheme and tough new powers for Ofwat to cut bills, measures to end the abuses of zero-hours contracts, Make Work Pay contracts that reduce company’s tax bills to incentivise

Natascha Engel (Lab): The food bank in Chesterfield that opened six months ago has reported that 50% of people presenting to the food bank are there because of benefit changes and benefit sanctions and because the DWP has really messed up. In what way is that not the responsibility of the DWP and the Government, who are actively forcing people into food banks?

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab): “It is disgraceful that the junior Minister, having made one of the nastiest Front-Bench speeches I have heard in my 43 years in this House, has now sloped off and not bothered to listen to the views of the House. Last Sunday I attended a carol service at New Covenant church in my constituency, where a leaflet of activities distributed to the congregation read,
“Food bank to alleviate poverty among the unemployed and low income earners.”
In my constituency we have widespread poverty and deprivation. Today’s unemployment figures show that we are No. 42 for unemployment out of 650 constituencies. This has not come about by accident. It is the direct result of this Government’s policies: the deliberate creation of unemployment, the bedroom tax, which is causing so many people to suffer, the benefits cuts, and the housing shortage. My city has been hit hardest of all the major cities by the Government’s cuts. We are having redistribution from the poor to the affluent.”

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Lab): “Last week I visited Kids Company in Southwark and saw the industrial-scale packing of food bags that were then piled into vans and delivered to vulnerable families across London. When I asked Camila what had changed in the past few years, she said that she is still seeing the same number of abused kids but is now getting hungry kids coming to her directly because they are starving.”

Jessica Morden (Lab): I was e-mailed last Friday by a woman in my constituency who asked me to attend this debate. She said: “I would ask if you could attend to represent the poverty and daily struggle that can be found in our area. I am writing as a former user myself of the food bank which at the time was a life-saver for me. At the beginning of this year, the DWP sanctioned me for six months due to an administrative error, which I did not ever receive a written apology for. I had to live on £27 a week for six months until my support worker found out and helped to get me back on my feet. I am not a waster or a shirker but having to receive food parcels because you have nothing in your cupboards is embarrassing for anyone. I also know people who work as hard as they can but because of low wages can’t manage.”

Mark Lazarowicz (Lab/Co-op): “The figures for food banks are only the tip of the iceberg, of course, as there are many other locations to which people go to get free food, such as soup kitchens. They have also seen a big increase in attendance over the last few years, and that is part of the picture as well.”

Frank Field (Lab): “These are the questions I would like to ask the Government. First, why are they so frit of having a serious inquiry into the causes of what is going on? Are food banks a passing fancy, or are they the outward visible sign of something very serious happening in our economy? We ought to get an answer to that. Secondly, if we listen to the food banks and the other bodies that are handsomely filling the ranks of those giving help in our society, they say the two things that are increasingly important in driving people to food banks are the sanctions regime and the sheer incompetence of the DWP in relaying benefits. Could the Minister—whoever it is and wherever they are—tell us how many of the exceptional payments the DWP is making are the result of benefit delays?”

Ian Lavery (Lab): “A gentleman in my constituency…was sanctioned when he was in hospital for a heart condition. He lived for a further three days on field mushrooms and borrowed eggs. Is that what we want to see in the UK in 2013-14?”

Madeleine Moon, (Lab): The working poor are finding it difficult to get basic products as well. My food bank has told me that people sometimes talk to staff quietly to ask whether they have toilet paper or sanitary products. It is not just food that people cannot get, but other expensive products.”

Hywel Williams (PC): “Thirty-three food banks operate in Wales and there are two in my constituency: one in Caernarfon and one in Bangor. In 2011, 11,000 Welsh people were dependent on food banks for limited help. The figure is now 60,000. People often go to food banks because their benefits have not been paid. There are mistakes, benefits are paid late and people are sanctioned, sometimes wrongly. A man came to see me on Monday who had been sanctioned and had no money. He had been called for an interview, but was not able to go because he had to take his seriously ill wife to hospital for cancer treatment. He could not be 30 miles away at the same time.”

Mr Andy Slaughter (Lab): ” I have an excellent charity, the Irish Youth Foundation, in my constituency. It is using its capital money to set up emergency food banks, and to provide emergency aid and relief for desperate young people who are going without food. That has happened as a consequence of this Government’s policies.”

Mr Jamie Reed (Lab): “I regret to say that the laughter from some of those on the Government Benches during this debate says more than words ever could… The final verdict on any Government is based on how they treat the poorest in society during the hardest of times. The rise in the need for food banks is a horrifying indictment of this Government’s record, and it demands urgent action.”

Luciana Berger (Lab/Co-op): “Figures released this week show an increase in diseases such as scurvy and rickets, and an increase in malnourishment. The Government should acknowledge that in the context of today’s debate. Frankly, it is disgraceful that we have not had a Minister from either of the main Departments sitting on the Front Bench for the whole of the debate.”

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Lab): “Some people have to go to food banks because of the problems they have with their benefits. On one occasion, a constituent came to see me, having been assessed for their personal independence payment by Capita six months previously, yet had still not had that assessment passed on to the Department for Work and Pensions because of Capita’s failures. Other constituents have waited more than four months. There are serious failures in the benefit system.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Lab: “Of course, it is not just the food banks. I am proud to represent a tremendously diverse constituency, where all the gurdwaras report an increase in uptake by non-Sikh people who go to them daily for the food that they hand out. Our Muslim organisations and mosques are collecting food to be handed out in our food banks. For Government Members to say that that is all just a continuation of a statistical trend that has been going on for the past few years suggests that they are all completely in denial.”

Stephen Twigg (Lab/Co-op): “There is no desire among the Opposition to make political capital out of those who have set up food banks or use them; we are representing our constituents. In my constituency, there has been an exponential growth in the use of food banks since 2010, and I and other Opposition Members are giving voice to those constituents.”

Diane Abbott, Lab: “If Government Members were genuinely appreciative of the work that food banks did, they would not have turned down £2.5 billion of EU funding to subsidise food banks.”

Julie Hilling (Lab): “It is an absolute disgrace that we have to have food banks in the sixth richest country in the world.”

Stephen Twigg, Lab: “Those among my constituents who do not have to use the food banks look in disbelief when they learn about the scale of the increase in their use over recent years. I appeal to the Government to publish the DEFRA report and… to have a proper inquiry into the causes of the growth of food banks, so that in future we see not further exponential growth, as we have seen over the last three and a half years, but a decline in the use of food banks, which is surely something that we could all support.”

Alison McGovern (Lab): “According to volunteers at the food bank in my constituency, they have been told that the need for food banks has been caused by the move from benefits to work. People’s weekly benefits stop and their pay cheques come at the end of the month, which is too far away. I fear that the recovery will not reach all parts of the economy unless we make it do so.”

Dame Anne Begg (Lab): “At the moment, Aberdeen is doing well. Despite the recession, the economy there is booming. There is so much activity in the North sea oil and gas sector that we are presently experiencing a labour shortage, and today’s unemployment figure in my constituency is down to 1.5 %, which comes pretty close to full employment. In spite of all that, something else is booming: it is the use of food banks.”

Debbie Abrahams, Lab: “It is a real worry that the demand for food banks seems to be related to the targets relating to social security sanctions? That is certainly the experience in my food bank in Oldham. One of my constituents has been waiting for an appeal against a sanction for four months without any money. For him, the food bank has been a lifeline.”

Dame Anne Begg, Lab: “My hon. Friend, like me, has been lobbied by a number of organisations saying that failures in the benefit system are causing much of the increase in food bank use. If the use of food banks were just a passing phase born out of the global banking crisis and the recent years of austerity, we would not be seeing their growth in places such as Aberdeen. If their use is temporary, why is it still growing when the Government say that the economy is picking up? If their use is nothing new, why are more families depending on food parcels than at any time in history?”

And the responses from the other side of the room…

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): “…the best way out of poverty is through work. Is it not also the case that the perverse incentives of the dog’s dinner of a benefits system that we inherited mean that someone who gains part-time work could end up worse off than if they stayed on benefits?”

Stephen Mosley (Con): “I think that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions knows what the problem is. That is why he is pushing so hard for universal credit, which will transform welfare, solving many of the issues that still haunt our welfare system and that we have heard about today.”

Roger Williams (Con): “Food banks have come rather late to my constituency, but I really welcome them.”

Esther McVey (Con): “In the UK, it is right to say that more people are visiting food banks, as we would expect. Times are tough and we all have to pay back the £1.5 trillion of personal debt, which spiralled under Labour. We are all trying to live within our means, change the gear…”

People can never again say that ‘all politicians are the same’. If ever you need a clearer picture of where parties priorities lie, I only saw one half of the House paying any attention to the needs of the constituents that they are there to represent.

Never forget.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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