Westminster committee slammed over Bedroom Tax hypocrisy

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  By Martin Kelly
 
A Westminster committee has been accused of adopting a two-faced stance on the bedroom tax after it called for the Scottish government to adopt a policy none of its members’ parties will themselves commit to.
 
The SNP has hit back at the Scottish Affairs Committee’s hypocritical call for the Scottish Government to pay for local authorities to cover the full costs of the Bedroom Tax.

The call from the all Unionist committee is entitled “Scottish Government under pressure to mitigate effects of bedroom tax” on the official website and is being headlined on BBC Radio Scotland news.  The commitee is urging Holyrood to work with Westminster in order to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax.

The Committee has called for a “clear commitment from the Scottish Government that it will use its chosen method of mitigating the effects of the bedroom tax  – Discretionary Housing Payments or DHPs – to mitigate all the financial impact of the bedroom tax, both past and present, on tenants in Scotland.”

It added: “The Committee says both Governments should expedite the necessary procedures which will enable the Scottish Government to lift the cap on DHPs in Scotland as quickly as possible.”

The SNP recently called for the UK Government to lift the limits on Discretionary Housing Payments to allow more money to be spent mitigating the effects of the tax.  After a period of delay, the move was sanctioned by Westminster.

In a statement, committee chairman, Labour MP Ian Davidson said:

“These decisions show that devolution works.  We now urge the UK and the Scottish Governments to move quickly to enable the Scottish Government to lift the cap on DHPs in Scotland as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, the Scottish Government should make a clear commitment to provide sufficient funding to enable every Local Authority in Scotland to make DHP payments which will cover the full costs of the bedroom tax since it was introduced for all of those who have been affected by it.

“That means paying the bedroom tax for every Scottish tenant for the current financial year.

“But it also means giving Scotland’s councils enough money to write off bedroom tax arrears that accrued during the previous financial year and, crucially, to refund all additional rent that has been paid as a result of the bedroom tax. To fail to do this would be penalising those who scrimped and saved and did their best to make extra payments that they never should have had to make.”

However the SNP has slammed the move as cack-handed hypocrisy pointing out that the committee is partly made up of MPs from the very parties which introduced the controversial legislation.  The nationalists also pointed out that a senior Labour shadow minister has already rejected the committee’s calls when made by its chair.

Kevin Stewart MSP, a member of Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee, highlighted recent comments from Labour’s Shadow Minister of State for Employment, Stephen Timms, after he publicly ruled out such a move.

Mr Stewart said: “Even by the consistently poor standards of the Scottish Affairs Committee this latest bizarre announcement plumbs new lows.

“For a group of Westminster MPs to call for this tax – that the Tory and Lib Dem MPs introduced and Labour explicitly ruled out a commitment to helping – to be the responsibility of the SNP Scottish Government is totally hypocritical.”

Earlier this month, Committee chair, Labour MP Ian Davidson was left red-faced after his call for his party to adopt the policy was rejected by colleague Stephen Timms, Shadow Minister of State for Employment.

Asked by Davidson for Labour to commit to writing off tenants debts and to refund bedroom tax payments, colleague Timms said: “Well that sounds a very good slogan but sadly I can’t give my honourable friend the assurance that he seeks.”

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Mr Stewart added: “Ian Davidson MP and his Tory chums might think that the people of Scotland are daft, but they are wrong – and people will see right through this cack-handed attack on the Scottish Government.

“With a Yes vote, Scotland will finally have full control over its welfare system.  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.”

Despite reporting the calls from the Labour dominated committee, BBC Scotland has thus far omitted to inform the public that the Labour party itself has refused to back the committee’s calls.