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Iain Duncan Smith: Food banks good but politicised

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Iain Duncan Smith: Food banks good but politicised

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Health

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Iain Duncan Smith has said that food banks provide a "good service" but have become "hopelessly politicised".

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, the work and pensions secretary avoided directly answering a question concerning food banks and instead claimed that Labour is "trying to make a political issue" out of them.

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, asked Duncan Smith: "Was not the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster absolutely right when he said last week that 'there shouldn’t be people living with nothing, in destitution, in a country which is as prosperous as this'?"

Duncan Smith replied that "Food banks do a good service, but they have been much in the news. People know they are free. They know about them and they will ask social workers to refer them. It would be wrong to pretend that the mass of publicity has not also been a driver in their increased use," before claiming that the number of food banks increased tenfold under the previous Labour government.

The minister was earlier asked by Susan Elan Jones, Labour MP for Clwyd South, if he had plans to meet with representatives of the Trussell Trust, the national food bank organisation.

Duncan Smith replied that representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions and he himself had met with the Trussell Trust in the past, before adding that "I absolutely think that those involved in food banks and in supporting those who are in difficulty or in need are very valuable members of the community, and I celebrate the work they do. I believe that it is the right thing for them to do."

The minister added: "I think that all those involved in food banks are decent people trying to do a decent bit of work for those in need of help, and we support that in general terms as constituency MPs. However, I must say that the over-politicisation of this issue has done no help at all, as some leaders of food banks have attested over the past week."

Last week it was revealed that food bank use amongst Londoners has soared by almost 400% in the last two years.

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