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Archbishop of Canterbury warns over hunger in Britain

A huge number of people in Britain have been forced to use food banks.

A volunteer at a foodbank in south London.
A volunteer at a foodbank in south London.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE ARCHBISHOP OF Canterbury will launch a report today urging Britain’s government to do more to eliminate hunger among people who struggle to afford food.

Justin Welby is backing the report by a group of politicians which was prompted by a huge increase in the number of Britons using food banks. These distribute free groceries to people who need them.

Ireland only has a small number of food banks, with one opened last month in Cork.

The Trussell Trust, one of the main charities running food banks in Britain, says the number of people using its centres has risen from 128,697 in 2011/12 to 913,138 in 2013/14.

Britain Triple Dip A volunteer reaches for a box of cereal at a food bank in London. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain is urging the creation of a new body featuring government ministers to work for a “hunger-free Britain”, plus action to make supermarkets give surplus food to poor people.

In an article for this week’s Mail on Sunday newspaper, Welby compared what he saw at a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a food bank in Britain where he met a family struggling to make ends meet.

Britain Triple Dip A volunteer at a food bank in London. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“I found their plight more shocking,” the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglican Christians wrote of the British family.

It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren’t careless with what they had — they were just up against it.

The co-chairman of the group behind the report, lawmaker Frank Field of the main opposition Labour party, said ahead of its publication: “There is clear evidence that something terribly disturbing is happening.”

Welby shock at Britain's hunger-stricken poor The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

He added:

People are near the abyss and the smallest thing can tip them over into the abyss.

Austerity 

Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government, led by the centre-right Conservatives, has imposed steep cuts on public services in Britain since coming to power in 2010 to try and reduce a budget deficit.

Britain’s deficit is forecast to hit £91.3 billion (€115 billion) in the year to March 2015, finance minister George Osborne said in a key budget update.

The next day, Osborne hit back at a suggestion in a BBC report that the cuts were taking parts of Britain back to the kind of crippling poverty portrayed in George Orwell’s 1937 book “The Road To Wigan Pier”.

He condemned the claim as “hyperbolic”, rejecting the BBC’s allegation that the budget had “glossed over” the “hulking great mountain of pain” facing Britain.

The economy is set to be a key battleground in next May’s general election, for which opinion polls place the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Church of England votes to allow women become bishops > 

Read: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin says church cannot be ‘self-serving’ > 

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