A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into why more people are relying on
foodbanks has been officially launched at Lambeth Palace.
The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty
in Britain will be co-chaired by the Labour MP Frank Field and the
Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Timothy Thornton.
Bishop Thornton told an audience of charities at the Palace on
Tuesday that before 1999 there had been no foodbanks in the UK; yet
their number was now soaring. "This inquiry is to try and find out
what's happening . . . and to form some recommendations."
The Conservative MP for Salisbury, John Glen, said that he was
proud that the Trussell Trust, which runs 404 foodbanks across
Britain, had started in his constituency. "I hope that this inquiry
will take some of the politics out of the foodbank debate, which
has been unhelpfully politicised in recent months," he said. "We
cannot rely on anecdotes and hearsay, but need to really understand
the full picture."
Another member of the inquiry panel, the Labour MP Emma
Lewell-Buck, said: "I get angry when I see that we are the seventh
richest nation in the world, and people are still in food poverty.
It really hurts me, and we need to do something about it. It's a
scourge in our country."
Bishop Thornton said that, as a Christian and a bishop, he could
not ignore the problem of food poverty, or leave it to politicians
to address. "I can do no other. I'm not going to allow myself to be
pushed to the margins," he said. "It's a fact that the first
foodbanks were set up by people who are Christians, and that is one
of the reasons why we want to get involved.
"As a Christian, I also believe in a prophetic edge to my faith.
I don't want to be celebrating in 30 years' time the 30th
anniversary of our foodbanks. I want to be a bishop who can
proclaim that foodbanks are closed down."
The opening of the inquiry was welcomed by many of the charities
present, including the Trussell Trust, Oxfam, the Children's
Society, and Church Action on Poverty.
There were also some dissenting voices. The Revd Keith Hebden is
a member of the End Hunger Fast campaign, and is 28 days into his
own personal fast to raise awareness of food poverty.
He said on Tuesday that the inquiry was not focusing on issues
such as global food-prices; and also accused Mr Glen of being
party-political, and "blaming people for their poverty".
"If there is any hope for this inquiry it will be the bishop -
he is not party political, nobody is voting for him. He talked
today about being a prophetic voice, and he desperately needs to
fulfil that role," he said.
"If we come out with only bland recommendations," Bishop
Thornton said, "it will have failed abysmally. I hope that this
will be very political. We have a voice as Christians."
He said that he had the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and many other diocesan bishops.