Foodbank inquiry launched

04 April 2014

Diocese of Blackburn

Stocking up: the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, visits Blackburn foodbank, which was started with seed money from St Gabriel's, Blackburn. He is supporting an Easter campaign encouraging people to donate

Stocking up: the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, visits Blackburn foodbank, which was started with seed money from St Gabriel's, ...

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.

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