Labour Bedroom Tax absence an “insult” to victims says MP

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  By Martin Kelly
 
The Scottish National Party has called on Scottish Labour to explain the absence of ten MPs at a vote in the House of Commons which called for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped.
 
The opposition day debate was initiated by Labour yet 47 Labour MPs, including 10 Scottish Labour MPs, failed to turn up for a vote that was lost by just 26 votes.

Included in the list of those absent was former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Labour’s deputy leader in Scotland Anas Sarwar.

SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Today we could have been talking about how the Bedroom Tax has been scrapped, but instead the question on the minds of many Scots is- where were they? Labour MPs need to explain their absence.

“Some may have very good reasons for missing the vote, but there can be no excuse for a quarter of Scotland’s Labour MPs not turning up for a vote to scrap the Bedroom Tax that could have been won.

“It is now clearer than ever before that only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland.”

Following outrage on social media, the non-show was defended by the Labour party who claimed its MPs had been ‘paired’ with those of the coalition.  Pairing allows MPs from both sides to miss votes by effectively cancelling out one another’s vote.

However according to newspaper reports only half of the Labour MPs had paired with someone from the opposition.  It has also emerged that ‘pairing’ in House of Commons’ votes is not allowed in matters of “great political importance”, something that has fuelled claims that Labour are not treating the Bedroom Tax seriously.

Dr Whiteford called Labour’s defence of their non-show an “insult” to victims of the Bedroom Tax.

“On their own terms, clearly neither the Labour Party nor Westminster as a whole regard the Bedroom Tax as ‘of great political importance’ – which is an insult to all those families who are suffering from the imposition of this cruel policy.

“This is especially bizarre given that Margaret Curran wrote to Alistair Carmichael urging the Liberal Democrats to rebel against the government. If Labour were already in a cosy deal with the Con/Dems, what was the point of Ms Curran’s letter?

“Unlike Labour and Westminster, the Scottish Government is well aware of how important an issue the Bedroom Tax is, and so I believe are the vast majority of people in Scotland. The Bedroom Tax is an unfair and unworkable policy which targets the most disadvantaged in our society, and it will only be scrapped with a Yes vote next year.”

Speaking to the Herald, a Labour spokesman said: “This desperate smear by the SNP cannot hide the fact that only three LibDem and Tory MPs voted to abolish the bedroom tax immediately.  Only a One Nation Labour Government will axe this cruel tax.”