Westminster Committee calls for an end to Bedroom Tax


  By a Newsnet reporter

A Westminster Committee has called on the UK coalition to scrap the Bedroom Tax.  The Scottish Affairs Committee interim report into the Bedroom Tax and its adverse effects in Scotland has been published today.

It has called on the Westminster Coalition to repeal the tax – and suspend application of the unfair tax for all tenants to whom a reasonable alternative offer cannot be made.

The report follows increasing anger at the introduction of the controversial legislation which penalises people receiving housing benefit if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their home.

Commenting on the controversial legislation, the report said: “We see it as overwhelmingly being a budget cut suffered by those in greatest need.

“Its stated objectives can better be achieved by other methods.

“We believe that the promoters of the bedroom tax fail to ­understand that social housing provides homes, often for a lifetime, rather than simply units of accommodation which can be treated as commodities.”

The committee, which has a majority of Labour MPs, also contained criticisms of both the UK coalition and the Scottish Government and added:

“We also believe that both the UK and Scottish Governments should make longer term commitments to the provision of DHP payments in order to allow local authorities to plan and structure their budgets.”

The report said: “We believe that, where debts arising from the bedroom tax are irrecoverable, this money should be written off by the housing provider and appropriate recompense made by the Scottish Government.”

It added: “We are opposed, in principle, to eviction as a result of the imposition of the bedroom tax but recognise the moral hazard of suggesting that the payment of rent is, in any way, a voluntary activity.  In the short term we believe that DHP money should be utilised to make up any shortfall, failing which the Scottish Government should financially support housing providers.”

Committee chairman Ian Davidson, the Labour MP for Glasgow South West, said: “We have produced an interim report because some glaring flaws are already apparent and notwithstanding our call for the tax to be abolished, we wish to draw these faults to the Government’s ­attention while it is conducting a review.

“We intend to explore more fully not only design flaws but also what can and should be done by the Scottish Government, social landlords and others to mitigate its effects on the vulnerable in Scotland.”

Whilst welcoming the publication of the committee’s report, the SNP has highlighted a recent vote that saw forty seven Labour MPs fail to turn up to vote against the controversial legislation.

Angus Robertson MP, SNP Leader at Westminster commented:

“The Bedroom Tax is a deeply unfair policy which will be scrapped in an independent Scotland.  It is a shame that Labour MPs did not feel so strongly on November 12 this year – at their own debate in the House of Commons when there was a real opportunity to abolish this punitive tax, that 47 Labour members didn’t even bother  to turn up including – shamefully – 10 Scottish Labour MPs .

“Had they bothered the bedroom tax would have been consigned to history.  It is even more shocking that one of the 10 Labour MPs who could not be bothered to get rid of the bedroom tax when they had an opportunity was a member of this committee.”

One of the MPs who sits on the committee is Labour MP Pamela Nash.  Ms Nash was one of ten Scottish Labour MPs who failed to turn up for a vote called by their own party which called for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped.

Mr Robertson added: “In contrast the SNP government is doing all it can to help mitigate the impact of this divisive tax and have pledged that funding for Discretionary Housing Payments will continue next year with another £20 million to help victims of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax.

“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system.  That means 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.”

There was anger last month after it emerged ten Scottish Labour MPs were amongst forty seven Labour MPs who had failed to turn up for a vote called by their own party.  The vote, calling for the Bedroom tax to be scrapped, was won by the coalition by only 26 votes.

The missing Scottish Labour MPs were: Pamela Nash, Douglas Alexander, Gordon Brown, Brian Donohoe, Frank Doran, James Hood, David Hamilton, Ann McKechin, Jim Murphy, Anas Sarwar.