Lords in new bid to change 'bedroom tax'
Peers will today try again to water down controversial plans for a ‘bedroom tax’ on underoccupying social housing tenants.
The welfare reform bill, which is aimed at reducing and simplifying benefits, returns to the House of Lords this afternoon. The bill includes measures to fine social housing tenants for having a spare room and is expected to affect 670,000 households.
The government lost seven key votes on the bill as the Lords passed amendments including allowing underoccupying social households to have one room if no other suitable alternative accommodation is available.
The government has invoked financial privilege, a rare parliamentary mechanism usually used for money bills, to prevent the amendments being discussed in the Lords today.
However, it is understood crossbench peer Lord Richard Best will today table an amendment which will seek to exempt a number of vulnerable groups from the ‘bedroom tax’, where they have one spare room and there is nowhere suitable for them to move to.
These vulnerable groups include:
- disabled people who rely on local family and support networks
- disabled children who need care during the night and cannot share with a sibling
- war widows
- families who foster children who for benefit purposes do not count as part of the household
The National Housing Federation urged peers to accept this latest ‘compromise’ amendment.
Andy Tate, policy offer at the NHF, said: ‘For thousands of families across the country, this amendment could mean the difference between making ends meet and living in hardship.
‘The amendment will ensure that the government’s proposals are targeted at the type of high level under-occupation that provokes wider public concern.
‘It will protect disabled people, war widows and foster carers from the worst impact of the bedroom tax.’
The Department for Work and Pensions has said the underoccupation penalty will save £490 million and encourage tenants to seek work or move, freeing up social homes.
If Lord Best’s latest amendment is passed the bill will return to the Commons and could lead to ‘ping pong’ where the bill bounces between the two legislative chambers until they both agree.