Labour Bedroom Tax ‘deserter’ attacks SNP over petition failure

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  By a Newsnet reporter

A Labour MP who last week failed to turn up to vote against the Bedroom Tax, has launched an online tirade against the SNP after a petition calling for a nationwide ban on evictions was rejected by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee.

Anas Sarwar, who was one of forty seven Labour MPs who failed to appear for a vote called by his own party, accused the SNP of having “joined forces” with the Tories after the petition failed to progress.

Hours after the decision by the committee, Mr Sarwar tweeted: “SNP & Tory MSPs join forces to reject Govan Law Centre petition on No Bedroom Tax evictions. Where’s @theSNP’s moral outrage now?”

In a series of follow up tweets, Mr Sarwar branded an SNP MP’s outrage following his non-appearance as “fake”.

However the Glasgow Labour MP was immediately slammed and accused of hypocrisy by other users on social media who questioned his commitment to abolish the legislation.

Mr Sarwar’s appearance on twitter followed a period of silence that followed his refusal to vote against the Bedroom tax last week along with ten other Scottish Labour MPs.  His non-appearance led to a protest outside his constituency office in Glasgow.

It later emerged that Mr Sarwar had gone on a jaunt to Pakistan where he visited a University to give a speech to students.

Yesterday’s failed petition, lodged by Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre, called on the Scottish Government to amend Section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to prevent evictions due to Bedroom tax arrears.  The petition also called on Bedroom Tax arrears to be pursued as an ordinary debt.

The committee voted not to allow the petition to progress and instead said it would write UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to ask what financial support will be available for “bedroom tax” cases next year.

The Labour MP’s claims that the SNP had “joined” with the Tories appear to be based on a Conservative MSP on the committee also voting to reject the petition.  Three SNP MSPs including Jamie Hepburn, Kevin Stewart and Annabel Ewing voted against the petition as did Tory MSP Alex Johnstone.

Joining Mr Sarwar in his attack on the SNP was Mr Dailly himself.  In a tweet of his own, the solicitor blamed the decision to reject his petition on the independence debate and accused SNP supporters of trying to make political capital out of the lives of vulnerable people.

He tweeted: “Very sad to see SNP supporters playing political football with the lives of vulnerable Scots tonight. Kinda sums up the #indy debate.”

Mr Dailly’s use of the Bedroom Tax to attack the SNP comes despite the lawyer himself refusing to comment when tenants in Labour controlled local authorities find themselves threatened with eviction.

Earlier this month, Newsnet Scotland sought a response from Mr Dailly after tenants in South Ayrshire were threatened with eviction due to Bedroom tax arrears.  The Conservative/Labour alliance had also threatened to report householders to Childrens Agencies.

However we received no reply from Mr Dailly who is also a supporter of the Tory-led anti-independence campaign Better Together.  When pressed again last night for his views on those Labour councils who have refused to commit to a non-eviction policy, Mr Dailly again did not respond.

Labour’s own stance on the Bedroom Tax is mired in confusion.  Despite seeking a no-evictions policy nationwide, the Labour party in Scotland has been unable to persuade all of its own local authorities to back such a move.

In March this year, the leader of Labour controlled North Lanarkshire Council dismissed calls from the SNP group for a blanket ban on Bedroom Tax evictions.

Jim McCabe said: “It comes as no surprise to me that the SNP group opted to go for the cheap soundbite and easy politics.

“But this council will make policy decisions on this abhorrent Tory legislation based on analysis and in a considered way.

“It’s easy to say we’ll have no evictions but the truth is that the picture is much more complex. We’ll analyse the impact of all the welfare reforms, not just the bedroom tax, and deal with them in a sensible, sensitive way.”

In May another Labour run local authority was slammed by campaigners after it threatened a young mother with eviction for arrears of just £129.  South Lanarkshire Council sent eviction letters out weeks after the Bedroom tax legislation came into force.

The Labour party confusion over Bedroom tax evictions also stretches to differences between Labour in Scotland and the UK party.  Scottish Labour, despite opposition from some of its own local authorities is seeking legislation to ban evictions, however Ed Miliband has refused to commit to a no-eviction policy nationwide.

The Scottish Government has pledged £20 million to help tenants suffering from the Bedroom Tax.  However it has rejected calls for legislation that would force councils into adopting a no-evictions policy.  Ministers have argued that the decision can more easily be made by each local authority.

All SNP run local authorities have adopted a no eviction policy for tenants who run up arrears due to the Bedroom Tax.