A CONSERVATIVE MP has referred Oxfam to the Charity Commission,
accusing the charity of "highly political advertising".
Conor Burns, the MP for Bournemouth West, wrote to the
Commission on Tuesday, in response to a tweet posted by the charity
on Friday. The tweet read: "Lifting the lid on austerity Britain
reveals a perfect storm - and it's forcing more and more people
into poverty." It was accompanied by a picture of a spoof film
poster (above): "The Perfect Storm. Starring: zero hours
contracts, high prices, benefit cuts, unemployment and childcare
Mr Burns told The Daily Telegraph: "Many
people who support Oxfam will be shocked and saddened by this
highly political campaigning in domestic British politics. Most of
us operated under the illusion that Oxfam's focus was on the relief
of poverty and famine overseas. I cannot see how using funds
donated to charity to campaign politically can be in accord with
Oxfam's charitable status."
The tweet trailed the publication on Monday of a new report by
Oxfam, produced with Church Action on Poverty, Below the
Breadline: The relentless rise of food poverty in Britain.
Based on data from three providers of food aid - the Trussell
Trust, Fareshare, and Food Cycle - the report suggests that the
number of meals provided by the three main food-aid providers
increased by 54 per cent in the past year - to more than 20
It attributes the increase in meals provided to "a perfect storm
of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low
and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising
food and energy prices".
Recommendations are listed. All parties should commit to
"reinstating the safety net principle as a core purpose of the
social security system" and to the Living Wage. The Government
should commission "independent systematic research on the reasons
for referrals to food banks", and review both zero-hours contracts
and benefit sanctions. The charity is encouraging supporters to
email their MP with these demands.
On Tuesday, a government spokesman said of the report: "It's
simply not possible to draw conclusions from these unverified
figures drawn from disparate sources."
On Wednesday, Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, told
Today on Radio 4 that Oxfam's claims about austerity were
"We have got a Government that is reforming zero-hours
contracts; we have seen a fall in unemployment by 400,000; we have
seen inequality . . . falling; we have seen relative poverty
falling, and we have seen food poverty falling, according to the
OECD figures," he said.
On Wednesday, Oxfam's campaigns and policy director, Ben
Phillips, said: "Oxfam is a resolutely non-party-political
organisation - we have a duty to draw attention to the hardship
suffered by poor people we work with in the UK.
"Fighting poverty should not be a party political issue -
successive governments have presided over a tide of rising
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "We are aware of
concerns relating to a tweet by the charity and are currently
assessing whether it raises any regulatory concern.
"From lobbying politicians to running online petitions,
charities can engage in a range of activities to support their
charity's aims. But charities must never be politically
Fractures. Two weeks ago, Caring Hands, an
outreach project of King's Church, Medway, gave out 397 meals in a
single day. The average previously was 280. The founder, Matthew
Guest, who is also pastor of King's, believes that there have been
failures in the Government's implementation of welfare reform.
"It's causing fractures in society because people are not being
counselled through it," he said on Tuesday.
by a staff reporter
THOUSANDS of tonnes of surplus food are being thrown away by
retailers each year, and are turned into energy, compost, or
landfill rather than donated to charities for the hungry.
Just two per cent of surplus food is being donated to charities
such as FareShare, which "rescues" food that is still edible from
supermarkets and other food retailers, and donates it to charities
that provide meals for the hungry, through lunch clubs, breakfast
clubs, and women's refuges.
FareShare gave the figures in evidence to the All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty, chaired by Bishop
of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, and the Labour MP Frank
The charity said that 3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted each
year by the food and drink industry, and if just one per cent was
redistributed, the charity could provide 70 million meals for those
in food poverty.
Last year, FareShare contributed food for 12 million meals.
The food director of FareShare, Mark Varney, said that it was
currently cheaper for retailers to send food to
government-subsidised anaerobic digesters - where it is turned into
biogas - rather than pay to deliver it to FareShare's depots.
The parliamentary inquiry last week published its interim
recommendations, calling on the food industry to set targets to
reduce the amount of surplus food that is sent to landfill, or
turned into compost or energy, by 100,000 tonnes each year.
Charities such as Fareshare should also be given resources to
double the meals that they are able to supply, which would save the
voluntary sector an estimated £160 million over the next
The inquiry also called on the Government to allocate the UK's
share of a European Aid fund for the most deprived to FareShare and
other charities that are working to distribute surplus food.
Publishing the recommendations, Mr Field and Bishop Thornton
said: "The poorest households have most felt the pinch over the
past decade, meaning the last resort of turning to foodbanks has
become a reality for an increasing number of people. . . We are
setting out some immediate steps we feel could stop people from
going hungry now, by making better use of the food we do have."