IS Alun Cairns MP confused? A few weeks ago, he told us that people use foodbanks because they are drug addicts, alcoholics, can’t budget or neglect their children.
Either he has a short memory or he got his facts wrong, because on December 18, he stood up in the House of Commons demanding an enquiry into the reasons for so many people needing to use foodbanks. Bizarrely, he then proceeded to vote against a motion calling on the government to publish the results of its own research into foodbanks. He then immediately resorted to Twitter to congratulate himself for praising Vale of Glamorgan foodbanks for the work that they do in ‘bringing people back into state support’. What on earth does he mean by this? Does he think that foodbanks are run by the state? Is he aware that the safety net that used to be there to support people in crisis has been removed, removed by the policies that he voted for?
If Mr Cairns is genuinely concerned about food poverty, there are three things that he can do for his constituents right now. Firstly, he can ask Iain Duncan Smith to change his mind and agree to meet the head of the Trussell Trust, which runs most foodbanks and understands the reasons why people have to use them; they predict that at least one million referrals will be made to foodbanks in 2014, and they need to know what Iain Duncan Smith, as minister with responsibility for welfare, intends to do about this; secondly, Alun Cairns can read the suppressed DEFRA report on our behalf, as we are not being allowed to see it, and he can tell us what it contains that is so important that it has to be withheld; thirdly, he can find out why his government has turned down £22 million in EU funding which is there specifically to support foodbanks and similar initiatives. Alun Cairns might also find it useful to reflect that it is not nice for his constituents to see him and his backbench colleagues sneering and shouting during a debate about poverty and hunger, and that not everyone finds stories about desperate people fighting in supermarkets for discounted food as entertaining as he appears to.