Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early

While Labour MP's story of fights over discount food in her local Tesco is drowned out by laughter from Government benches

Tory ministers have been condemned for not taking the plight Britain's poor seriously after a rowdy Commons debate on food banks during which the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith refused to answer questions and left early.

As Fiona MacTaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, described how people battled over end of day bargains in her local Tesco, she was almost drowned out by laughter and jeering from the government benches.

Ms MacTaggart could barely be heard over the braying as she described how the supermarket had been forced to draft in extra security and asked “Isn't that a shocking sign in the 21st century?”

Labour MP for Copeland in Cumbria, Jamie Reed told The Mirror: “I regret to say the laughter from the government benches says more about this issue than words ever could.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and the remaining government ministers from his department left the debate after an hour, well before its conclusion.

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent said it was “extraordinary” to see Mr Duncan Smith smirking as it was pointed out that half a million people are now using food banks - and the minister refused to answer any questions directly, instead leaving them to be fielded by his deputy, Esther McVey.

The Trussell Trust, the nation's largest provider of food banks, with almost 400 branches said it was “disappointed” by the attitude of those who jeered.

Labour had called the debate after nearly 150,000 people signed a petition backed by The Mirror, the Unite union and The Trussell Trust calling for an inquiry into the growing dependence on food aid.

Ms McVey said it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks and that Germany and Canada had also seen a rise in their use.

The Tory MP for Wirral West said:  “It is positive that people are reaching out to support other people - from church groups to community groups, to local supermarkets and other groups.”

She went on to try to pin the blame on spiralling food bank use on the Labour party.

“In the UK it is right that more people are... going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally which spiralled under Labour, we are all trying to live within our means, change the gear and make sure that we pay back all our debt which happened under them.”

But Conservative MP Laura Sandys (South Thanet) said: “Food banks are not the answer. They must be seen as a transitional support mechanism for families in stress at particular moments.

"They are not a solution or something we want institutionalised."

Labour's Sir Gerald Kaufman described McVey's speech as the nastiest he had heard in his 43 years as an MP.

As Mr Duncan Smith and his colleagues left, the speaker John Bercow said he had no power to stop them, but said the view that it was a disgrace there was no minister there ”may be widely shared".

Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said “It's a scandal which is getting worse and the Government now has the humiliation of the Red Cross helping to collect and distribute food aid in Britain for the first time since the Second World War.”

And the former Labour cabinet minister Paul Murphy said he had never seen such poverty in his 40 years as a Welsh politician, apart from during the 1984 miners' strike.

Labour's motion calling on the government to reduce dependency on food bank was eventually defeated by 294 votes to 251, a majority of 43 as Tories and Lib Dems banded together to shout it down.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee