Food bank demand down to cuts, says Labour

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Cuts to local authority budgets and "harsher benefit sanction regimes" can only result in increased use of food banks, opposition spokesperson Lord Mackenzie of Luton told peers on 2 July 2013.

"Isn't it a fact that under this government food banks are looking to be a permanent part of the welfare provision of this country?" he asked the minister during oral questions.

A report compiled by Oxfam and Church Action Against Poverty says that in 2012 across the UK as a whole food banks were used by half a million people - three times more than the year before.

Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud said there was no evidence that the use of food banks was "supply led or demand led".

He said: "Food banks are absolutely not part of the welfare system that we run. We have other systems to support people."

The Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Tim Thornton, asked if ministers were prepared to concede "there may be a link between benefit delays, errors, sanctions and the growing number of people using food banks".

Lord Freud said that the growth in food bank provision pre-dated the welfare reforms, so there was no evidence of a "causal link".

He said food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, had said that one reason for the increase was benefit delays. However he argued that in a period of an increase in demand, blamed on benefit delays, there had actually been a reduction in the delays. "So it's difficult to know which came first - the supply or demand," he said.

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