British PM pressured over food bank rise

21st April 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain's opposition centre-left Labour party on Tuesday urged Prime Minister David Cameron to promise to reduce reliance on free food bank supplies by people in economic trouble.

Soaring use of food banks and a squeeze on living standards have emerged as a central theme in the election campaign ahead of the vote on May 7.

The largest food bank network in Britain, The Trussell Trust, will report on Wednesday that food bank users rose to over a million last year, according to newspaper The Independent.

The rise follows years of steep increases in reliance on free food handouts, from 130,000 people in 2011-2012 to 913,000 in 2013-2014.

In a letter to Cameron, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves called the 618 percent rise in emergency food aid users in the last three years "shocking".

"I am writing to ask if you will join Labour in pledging to reduce the number of people in the UK relying on food banks in the next parliament," Reeves wrote.

"I'm sure that you'll agree with me that in the 21st century no one should have to rely on charity to feed their family. Food banks should never become a permanent feature of our society."

Labour has accused Cameron's centre-right Conservative party of leaving poorer people behind during his five years in office.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to increase the minimum wage and end so-called "zero hours contracts", under which employees have no minimum guaranteed hours, to raise living standards.

In response, a Conservative spokesman said that the party was helping people out of poverty by getting them into employment and "tackling welfare dependency".

"The best way to help people support themselves and their families is to stick to our long term economic plan which is creating more jobs," the spokesman said.

The Labour and Conservative parties are neck-and-neck in polls just over two weeks from the election, with 35 percent support each according to a BBC aggregate of surveys.

© 2015 AFP

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