Because I was away on Tuesday on Parliamentary business some websites and tweets and Emails have denounced me for missing the vote on the Labour Opposition motion in the House of Commons which called for the Government to repeal the ‘bedroom tax’, which deducts housing benefit for working age people in social housing that are deemed to have an excess number of bedrooms. The reason I was away was because I was visiting the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on a Parliamentary delegation. During my visit I went to the Domiz refugee camp near Dohuk where there are now 75,000 refugees from the civil war in Syria including 13,000 children.
If I had been present I would of course have supported this motion. But I was away and paired with a Conservative MP. If I had been in the Commons, so would he, and my vote would have been cancelled out. My absence made no difference to the result.
The cruel and unfair Bedroom tax hits 660,000 people including over 400,000 disabled people.
For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere similar to move to and the average family affected will lose £720 a year. 375,000 children could be forced out of their homes or pushed deeper into poverty.
Local authorities and housing associations are also being put in impossible situations trying to minimise the impact of this badly designed policy on local people. There is also a real risk that the bedroom tax will cost more than it saves and the National Audit Office have warned that the Government’s costings do not take account of the full scale of potential impacts.
I believe the bedroom tax is unjust and unworkable and that it should be repealed now. It is important though that repealing the bedroom tax does not mean extra borrowing.
The Labour motion in the House of Commons this week therefore called for the cost of ending the bedroom tax to be met by reversing the Government’s planned tax cuts for hedge funds, by cancelling the Government’s ‘shares for rights’ scheme and by cracking down on the tax lost from disguised employment in the construction industry. The motion also called for the Government to use the funding set aside through Discretionary Housing Payments to dealing with the problems caused by the bedroom tax. Unfortunately, though, the Government rejected this motion.