The Under Secretary of State for Scotland was giving evidence to Holyrood’s Welfare Committee on food banks, when Ms McAlpine quoted evidence from Mark Frankland, Manager of First Base, linking welfare reforms to the rise in food bank use.
Mr Mundell responded:
“Well, for reasons we won’t go into in this Committee it won’t surprise you to know that I take what Mr Frankland says with a pinch of salt.”
When this comment was questioned he continued:
“… having been a very, very prominent yes campaigner I don’t think we that we could necessarily take everything he says as totally objective and I don’t think that he himself would hold himself out in that regard.”
Ms McAlpine said about the comments:
“This is an outrageous thing for Mr Mundell to say. People from all political backgrounds work in food banks – they work directly with people suffering because of welfare cuts imposed on them by his government.
“He really should apologise to Mr Frankland.”
During the exchange Ms McAlpine put it to Scotland’s only Conservative MP that the manager of the charity, which distributes food parcels in his constituency, found that welfare reforms had a large impact on benefit claimants in former mining towns Kirkconnel and Kelloholm.
Under new welfare rules, claimants are expected to go online and leave digital evidence of 17 job searches a week – but with poor access to broadband and only 15 publically available computers in the villages for over 300 people who are unemployed, this is a difficult ask.
Mark Frankland has written extensively on this issue and suggests he has seen a marked increase in sanctions because of changes to welfare brought in by the UK Government.
Not only did Mr Mundell dismiss Mr Frankland’s comments, he also dismissed evidence from MSPs, academics, charities and religious organisations on the link between welfare reforms and food banks.
Ms McAlpine added:
“The fact of the matter is that Mr Mundell, along with his Tory colleagues, has his head in the sand on this issue and is using any excuse not to listen to anyone.
“There is a wealth of evidence showing that the exponential rise in food bank use is linked to UK Government welfare reforms, including this own Committee’s report and reports from organisations working at the coal face, such as Oxfam and the Trussell Trust – yet this is dismissed as failing to be robust.
“If this is the case then the Department for Work and Pensions needs to undertake its own research instead of refusing to face facts – but they are refusing to do this too.
“This is simply not good enough.”
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