Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith has been accused of running scared of public scrutiny of the controversial Bedroom tax ahead of his visit to Scotland.
Despite making a trip north of the border, the Conservative Minister has refused to give public evidence to Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee.
The Westminster Work and Pensions Secretary who is scheduled to appear at a conference today charging £545 per head for delegates to attend, has agreed to a meeting with the Welfare Reform Committee – but only behind closed doors.
His repeated refusal to appear in public follows a similar stance by Lord Freud – the reported architect of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax – who also refused to publicly defend the policy when visiting Scotland.
Commenting, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee said:
“Iain Duncan Smith has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to attend a closed door meeting, and is still refusing to answer questions about the iniquitous Bedroom Tax in public.
“The only conclusion that people in Scotland can possibly draw is that he is running scared of public scrutiny because he cannot defend this indefensible policy – which is utterly irrelevant to Scottish circumstances.
“There are over 100,000 households across Scotland set to be hit by the Bedroom Tax next week, all of whom are facing a real financial burden.
“The people facing the prospect of this attack cannot afford to stump up fees of £545 to hear Iain Duncan Smith justify what he is doing, so why is he refusing to appear in public so that people can hear what he has to say?
“The fact of the matter is that this is a deeply unfair policy that people across Scotland find utterly abhorrent – which is why a clear majority of people in Scotland support Holyrood having responsibility for welfare and pensions policy, not the Westminster system.
“The SNP are committed to abolishing the Bedroom Tax in an independent Scotland, and it is a clear demonstration of why we need the Scottish Parliament to have the full powers over welfare that only a Yes vote in September 2014 can secure.”
The so called Bedroom Tax has caused widespread anger amid claims that it will hit the most vulnerable in society.
The SNP has pledged to scrap the controversial policy should Scots vote Yes in the 2014 independence referendum. However the Labour party backs the Bedroom Tax in principle and is proposing its own for people who refuse to move to smaller accommodation, if it is available.
The SNP has announced that any council under their control will refuse to evict anyone who finds themselves in arrears due to benefit cuts caused by the new legislation, which is due to come into force at the start of April. Some Labour councils are believed to be following the SNP lead.
Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish government to introduce an emergency law forbidding the eviction of tenants who fall into arrears as a result of the Bedroom tax.