By a Newsnet reporter
A Tory welfare minister has admitted the Bedroom Tax is designed with the main aim of saving money – despite repeated claims from the party that it is based on fairness and is a means of reducing council house waiting times.
Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords, David Freud (pictured), a former investment banker who was first brought into government as an advisor to Tony Blair but then switched to the Conservatives, admitted that the main purpose of the measure was to reduce government expenditure on benefits.
Mr Freud said: “My Lords, the policy as it stands is designed, first, to save money. We are looking to save £500 million a year here, which is within the context of the overall saving of £2 billion that we are trying to make over two years.”
The comments come despite a number of claims from senior government members that the aim of the bedroom tax is to ensure that the best use is made of social housing.
Sitting in the House of Lords as Baron Freud of Eastry, Mr Freud was appointed as the coalition government’s welfare reform minister in 2012. Shortly after his appointment he suggested that lone parents, people on sickness and disability benefits and other benefits claimants are too comfortable and were able to “have a lifestyle” at the expense of the state. He added that the benefits system was “dreadful” as it discouraged people from “taking risks” in order to improve their situation.
Mr Freud’s claims in the House of Lords on Wednesday came 6 weeks after the bedroom tax was introduced. Organisations and charities working to combat poverty and social exclusion say it has had a damaging effect on the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society, while the richest enjoy a cut in taxes.
Commenting, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“Lord Freud has let the cat out of the bag- and revealed the true agenda of the UK Government. But Scottish Government research shows that the extra costs imposed on the public purse mean that the Bedroom Tax won’t actually save any money- as well as being grossly unfair and damaging to families.
“People on the lowest incomes are paying the price for structural problems affecting the supply of affordable housing in the south of England. The Bedroom Tax is also unworkable – instead of addressing the underlying problems, it undermines the ability of social landlords to invest in the kind of affordable housing that is so badly needed.
“The real way for the UK Government to save money is to beat unemployment through economic growth and jobs- which the Tory/LibDem coalition is failing to deliver on. In Scotland, the Scottish Government’s policies are helping to support record job creation. Westminster are using the poorest in society as scapegoats to deflect from their economic failures.
“The Bedroom Tax will be imposed on Scotland despite over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it.
“Lord Freud’s comments give us an insight into the Tory agenda – no wonder inequality in the UK is growing faster than anywhere else.
“In Scotland we have an opportunity to change, so that we make our own democratic decisions. To vote No in next year’s referendum would mean leaving Scotland at the mercy of the Westminster system, which on any measure is failing. With independence we have the opportunity to do things differently and better – and we will scrap the Bedroom Tax in an independent Scotland.”