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Trade unions slam Tory MPs for threatening charities who speak out for poverty-stricken

Work and Pensions official tells Trussell Trust it could be closed if it continues to criticise government austerity policy

Trade unionists accused the coalition of being “out of touch” yesterday after Conservative MPs tried to intimidate charities speaking out for the poor.

Unite Community — which organises people who can not or are currently out of work — criticised a Department of Work and Pensions official who threatened food bank charity Trussell Trust with closure.

Unite Community national coordinator Lian Groves: “Instead of attacking an organisation that is providing a safety net to millions of people he should look at solutions to make food banks unnecessary.”

The source of the threat is said to be bedroom tax lobbyist Andrew Selous but Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould has refused to name names.

The threat itself was exposed during a hearing of the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector at which Mr Mould gave evidence earlier this week.

Mr Selous — an aide to Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith — reportedly suggested that the trust had to be careful with its statements or “government might try to shut you down.”

“This was spoken in anger,” argued Mr Mould, while adding that such comments expose “the way people think in the political world about their relationship with the voluntary sector when things are getting difficult.”

The hearing was held just a day after the trust released its latest report on food poverty in association with Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty.

The document found that the government’s cuts to social security are to blame for rising numbers of people living below the breadline.

Mr Selous, who is MP for South West Bedfordshire, has denied the accusations.

Another Conservative MP has also attempted to censor charities working with Britain’s poorest.

Bournemouth West representative Conor Burns argued Oxfam’s latest campaign against zero hour contracts and benefit cuts was “overly political.”

He then urged watchdog the Charity Commission to investigate and withdraw Oxfam’s charitable status.

“The Tories are completely out of touch with the plight of millions of unemployed, low paid and disabled workers,” concluded Ms Groves.

She added that politicians must ensure that work pays enough for people to subsist without having to rely on food banks and charitable work.

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