Saturday, 07 March 2015

Opposition MPs fail in bid to scrap bedroom tax

A last ditch attempt to derail the government’s ‘bedroom tax’ has failed.

MPs from Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and the Green Party called an opposition day debate yesterday on the under-occupation penalty, calling for it to be abolished. The motion was defeated by 265 votes to 224 after a heated five-hour debate.

Under the penalty working age social housing tenants who are receiving housing benefit will have their payments cut if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home. The policy is due to be implemented on 1 April.

Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary, described it is a ‘policy that is unique in its cruelty’.

He argued people will not be able to move to smaller properties, because there are not enough available, so will be forced to cope with reduced payments.

‘About £490 million is earmarked to be saved by this policy over the course of this year, but it will be saved only if 660,000 households are hit for £14 a week for 52 weeks a year,’ he said. ‘That is how those savings will be delivered. This is not about bringing spare bedrooms on to the market; it is about hurting vulnerable people and asking them to pay extra.’

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith responded by blaming the lack of suitable homes on the previous Labour government.

Earlier during prime minister’s questions, David Cameron was also forced to defend the policy. He repeated his claim that the penalty is ‘fair’ and £50 million of discretionary housing payments will help the most vulnerable people who are affected.

‘Of course we need to build more social homes, and we are doing exactly that, but in the meantime we should do everything we can to make sure those homes are used in the most efficient and fair way,’ he said.

He also suggested Labour might have introduced a similar policy, but ‘now that it is in opposition, all we get is rank opportunism and irresponsibility’.

John Healey, a former Labour housing minister, said the prime minister was ‘wrong to hide behind the fig leaf of the discretionary payments fund’ and called the policy  ‘callous and reckless’.

Readers' comments (63)

  • simon ryan

    it may continue to go ahead on 1st april but then the backlash will begin and this goverment will feel the back lash of real honest peolpe who have to live in the rich peoples money grabbing sociaty this goverment has created ,
    it strikes me as crazy that goverment and councills could offer up to £6.500 for people to move out of london so they can really get there kind of people into the capital and yet in an area i doubt they will ever visit or really ever know about , you are penalized for beoing made to take a 2 bedroom by the then council and are fined /taxed for the desicions they made on youre behalf

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  • I was disgusted to see that there were very few Condems who support the bedroom tax actually there to listen to the debate. and yet many suddenly appeared, out of the bar no doubt, to vote anyway. The ones that were there sat arrogantly playing with their mobile phones and yawning. How disgusting of a party to show such contempt in regards to a bill that will destroy thousands of lives with little regard of the consequences. Come April everything predicting in the light of suicides, rent debts, homelessness and no savings to the budget will become fact. I have no doubt that there will be many court appearances, not only through evictions but for human rights violations and forced eviction. All no doubt finding by legal aid because those going to court will be on very low incomes. The behaviour and attitude of Ian Duncan Smith can only be described as deplorable and of a schoolboy nature. Fiddling with his phone, fidgeting, sitting all slouched with the odd yayayaya whilst looking at the lady speakers backside. If these are the type of people who are making the decision for our country then god help us all because this is starting to look like Nazism to me and many others. I am disgusted and ashamed to be part of this country.

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  • michael barratt

    I am not particularly religious, however many of the ConDems are - when did they last read their bible:

    Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him.
    (Proverbs 14:31)

    Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. (Proverbs 28:27

    Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalms 82:4)

    Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10)

    Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (1John 3:17-18)

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  • Gavin Rider

    I have just written to my Conservative MP to express my dissatisfaction over this. I copy here the text of my e-mail, and suggest others send similar messages of disgust to their MPs as well. Copy it on to all your e-mail contacts and encourage them to mail their MPs too.

    Let them know first hand how angry people feel about this. Adding in a few of the quotes posted by Michael Barratt would not go amiss, either.


    I would just like to say how disgusted I am at the way the perfectly valid concerns about the way the "bedroom tax" will affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society have been dismissed out of hand by Iain Duncan Smith and the rest of the Coalition.

    I fully support the principle behind the action to make better use of social housing and to charge people in proportion to the subsidised facilities they "enjoy". But I cannot support this blunt instrument which has all the hallmarks of a punitive tax on the poorest in society. Just the threat of it has already caused a great deal of anguish for large numbers of social tenants - the implementation will be far worse. This will cause more hardship than it will solve, and the wounds from this will last a long time.

    It does not compensate for this aggression towards the poor for Iain Duncan Smith to say that there is a discretionary housing fund available to help those who are most in need. That is like hitting someone round the head with a 4x2 and then giving them an aspirin.

    You and your colleagues in power should be utterly ashamed of yourselves for approving this reform.

    Yours sincerely,

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  • Gavin Rider

    Chris Knowles - I am an atheist, and I support the intention behind this initiative from the government, but even I approve of the sentiment expressed in Michael Barratt's post.

    The implementation of the policy is what is badly flawed. They are messing around with people's HOMEs. This is not just a matter of inventory control, this is people's LIVEs they are messing about with for the sake of saving a few pounds, which some contributors in here claim won't be saved anyway.

    Even if the savings that have been claimed are saved, I do not believe that it will be worth the disruption to so many people's lives. A better way of dealing with this situation should have been found.

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  • Chris Knowles' post has been removed following complaints that it was insulting to others.

  • Gavin Rider

    Michael - was John guilty of plagiarism in The Bible, or did you cut and paste the wrong quote?

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  • Gavin Rider

    "Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith responded by blaming the lack of suitable homes on the previous Labour government."

    That is a bit like the Captain of the Titanic standing in front of St Peter and blaming the lack of lifeboats on the ship's designers in an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility for all the deaths, having ploughed the ship into an iceberg.

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  • michael barratt

    Dear Mr Knowles

    You seem a very angry person. What you appear to forget is that social benefits are a form of insurance into which we have all contributed with the objective of protecting our selves and our family. Social benefits are not as you portray just something for nothing.

    Another quote I hope it annoys you:

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” Corinthian 13:1

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  • Chris Knowles' post has been removed following complaints that it was insulting to others.

  • Bible talk....

    michael barrat "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker"

    The churches of this world have spent their wealth on grand cathedrals. It was n't the church who built council houses for the betterment of people. Does the church demand every person is entitled to food and shelter?. The state (the people of this country) have decided to provide for the poor, elderly and disabled.

    I am disheartened by "some" people who have received brand new housing association homes and then cause criminal activity in the local neighboorhood. What does the bibble have to say on this sort of behaviour?

    I recall at school being told of a story from the bible. When Jesus curred the sick and unhealthy. None of those who were cured, returned to thank Jesus. The only exception was a blind man who got his sight back. He as the only who returned to thank Jesus. I feel the welfare state is a bit like that....

    End of Bible Talk!

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  • michael barratt

    Gavin I think I cut and pasted the wrong quote. Just because I have been a life long Communist does not say that I do not sympathise with the Christian ethos in respect to the poor. Pity the forces on the right of politics seem to care little for those less fortunate than themselves. Encouraging the media to portray the disabled as maligering scroungers.

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