Benefits claimants should act like ‘disciples’ and move to the ‘promised land’ to protect themselves against the welfare reforms, a Conservative MP has said.
David Davies drew on characters from the bible who ‘had to move for a better way of life’ as he spoke in a parliamentary debate discussing the bedroom tax.
Labour organised the opposition day debate calling on David Cameron to scrap the policy which was brought in last April and pressed the Liberal Democrats to vote against the government.
The Liberal Democrats voted in their party conference in September to axe the coalition policy.
Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary, said to MPs: ‘We say that it’s time to stop this cruel and mad policy and it’s time for members on all sides of the house to take a stand.
‘Time to stand with the desperate families who are being forced out of their homes and forced into debt, to stand anyone who knows anything about housing or homelessness, the plight of disabled people or the lives of children in poverty who are all warning that this policy is… becoming a fiasco.’
Mr Davies joined his party in defending the policy and said the government should not continue to support those who did not go out to find work.
The MP for Monmouth said: ‘I even had somebody who emailed me, he said “you’re a Christian, you should be serving the Lord, one time you’ll stand by the lord and account for this hardship” and I wrote back and I said “I read my bible. I don’t see anywhere in the bible where it says 17-year-olds should be given a flat, but I see plenty example of people who have had to move for a better way of life, whether it’s Abraham going off to the promised land or Moses or the disciples who toured over Europe. They all moved.”’
Jeremy Lefoy, another Conservative backbencher, criticised the pay of housing association chiefs and suggested some of the money could contribute to the discretionary housing payment pot.
‘In south Staffordshire, the discretionary housing pot is £90,000 and they are working very hard to make it work,’ he said. ‘So it was a little surprise that I read that the salaries and benefits of the director of one of the local social housing providers were £223,000, £160,000, £149,000, £136,000 and £139,000.’
In a wide-ranging debate, MPs recounted anecdotes of their constituents who had been affected by the policy.
Labour’s Stephen Pound said his brother, who has a kidney disease, faced losing his home under the policy.
‘There is a young man who lives in Earls Court who is in total renal failure. This man’s spare bedroom is a dialysis unit,’ he said.
‘He has been told he now has to pay the bedroom tax. He is very happy with the efforts of his MP, not of my political persuasion, to attempt to free him from the chains of the bedroom tax…
‘But my brother faces losing his home of 20 years for being a kidney patient.’