Coalition ministers attacked over ‘rancid and unfair’ bedroom tax

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  By Martin Kelly
 
The SNP has attacked the introduction of what it describes as the ‘rancid’ bedroom tax during Scottish Questions at Westminster.
 
During yesterday’s session two SNP MPs raised the issue of the tax which is estimated will affect around 100,000 Scots who live in social housing.

Calling the tax “shameful” Dr Eilidh Whiteford invited Conservative MP David Mundell to distance himself from the tax, which will see some people lose up to £22 per week if they have an extra bedroom in their home.

The SNP MP for Banff and Buchan and Work and Pensions spokesperson asked Tory junior minister:
 
“Will he take the opportunity to distance himself from this shameful attempt by the Government to stigmatise and penalise people who live in council houses and need help with their rent”
 
In his reply Mr Mundell refused and instead accused Dr Whiteford of playing party politics.

He replied: “What is shameful is the way that the Scottish National Party plays party politics with vulnerable people, pretending that there can be no welfare changes, yet putting forward nothing in their place and not indicating how welfare would be paid for in an independent Scotland.”
 
Later, Angus Robertson Westminster SNP Leader and MP for Moray pressed the Secretary of State Michael Moore, asking how many Scottish MPs had supported the legislation.

“As one of the most rancid unfair pieces of legislation since the Poll tax, can the Secretary of State remind the House how many Scottish MPs voted for it?”
 
Responding, the Lib Dem MP said: “For as long as the hon. Gentleman’s party make lots of promises but with no way of paying for them, folk will not listen terribly carefully to what he has to say.”

Mr Robertson compared the tax with the Poll tax and claimed it was being introduced against the wishes of the people of Scotland.

He continued: “Anybody watching this debate will have noticed that the Secretary of State wasn’t prepared to confirm that 82 per cent … 82 per cent of Scottish members of this house had voted against the Bedroom tax.  So just like the Poll tax an unpopular regressive measure is being imposed on the people of Scotland when the overwhelming majority of their public representatives are totally opposed to it.”
 
Commenting later, Mr Robertson added: “People will have seen the inability of Michael Moore to answer straightforward questions about the imposition of the Bedroom tax, and how despite a huge majority of Scotland’s MPs -over 80 per cent – voting against it this iniquitous tax will still hit Scots.  Only with a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014 can we stop more unfair, unwanted and undemocratic taxes being imposed on Scotland by Westminster.”

The tax, described by the coalition as an “under-occupation measure” has come in for heavy criticism with claims that some people living in social housing could find themselves being evicted due to being unable to pay their rent.

Last week a coalition minister caused outrage after suggesting that people on minimum wage should work longer hours in order to make up for any loss in benefits.