I rise to support the motion; we should support this motion this evening in the House this afternoon and in the division lobbies this evening.
Since the moment the Welfare Reform Bill saw the light we have warned this bedroom tax was bound to fail.
My Rt Hon friend, the Member for East Ham said:
“The reality is that most people under occupying their home currently will not have a smaller alternative to move to. New social rented homes are not being built. And of course, if they did have somewhere smaller to move to, the main purpose of this change – which is to reduce housing benefit spending – would not be achieved.”
My Noble friend, the Lord McKenzie of Luton warned:
“The discretionary housing budget paid for by increased pain on the bedroom tax does not adequately address the strong reservations that are being expressed. Nor does it compensate for the misery that these regulations will bring to potentially hundreds of thousands of households.”
In the divisions of the House, the other place, on the floor of this chamber and in committee we have forced votes as developments which will protect people from the disaster about to hit them in April.
Over the weeks gone by, the faults and flaws which my Rt Hon Friend the Member for East Ham warned us of have emerged to all their Technicolor, 3-D , horror.
First, we discuss that someone handed a 6 months’ sentence is exempt.
Yet a mother, a mother like say Alison Huggan with two sons serving in the military, is not exempt but clobbered.
Then we hear foster parents will be hurt.
Then we hear couples where one is a pensioner and the other is not would be hit.
And of course, looming over all of this is the truth revealed in the Departments own assessment that 2/3 of those hit are disabled. Indeed the National Housing Federation estimates 200,000 are receiving Disability Living Allowance.
Mr Speaker this is a policy that is unique in its cruelty.
It is unique because it sets out to tackle a problem – the problem of under-occupancy – but will only succeed in making the forecast savings, if it fails.
The Government’s Budget assessment says clearly: there’s not enough properties for those trying to dodge the tax go more into.
They’re firing at vulnerable people, having first made sure there is nowhere to seek shelter.
That I will suggest to the House is a policy of unique cruelty
But, Mr Speaker this is not simply a cruel punishment.
This policy is a cruel and unusual punishment.
It’s not normal, it’s not usual in a modern, advanced civilised country to reward the rich and punish the poor.
It beggars belief that this policy to charge the poor more begins at the same time we charge the rich less.
Next month those on a million a year got a £2,000 a week tax cut.
And those with a spare bedroom got a £14 a week rent rise.
In what world is that fair? Or normal? Or usual?
Only in a Tory world.
Now, it may be Mr Speaker, that the Secretary of State believes that this policy is indeed going to save his Department £490 million a year.
It may be that the Secretary of State genuinely believes this policy is going to save the £2 billion over the forecast period.
It may be the Secretary of State genuinely believes all this.
I put it to the House that is the Secretary of State trulybelieves this, then he is frankly too foolish to be the Secretary of State.
Because the evidence is now staring him in the face.
He will have read the reports to Cabinets in national governments and councils all over Britain.
They couldn’t be clearer: this policy is heading to cost more than it saves.
Even the Communities and Local Government Secretary is so worried this government’s shambolic reforms are so badly thought through he felt obliged to write to the Prime Minister to tell him that up to 40,000 people could be made homeless and the reforms would actually cost more than they save.
And across the country it gets worse
Hull City Council says that 4,700 tenants will be hit, but there are just 73 one and two bedroom properties available to let. They are estimating a shortfall for 4,700 tenants – costing rate payers a fortune.
In North Lanarkshire Council estimate they will lose £1.6m of additional arrears in arrears.
So here we have a Department at the very heights of its powers.
A department that brought us a Work Programme that is worse than doing nothing.
A department that is presiding over a Universal Credit system collapsing into chaos.
A department that now offers a policy that costs more than it saves.
And why? Because the Secretary of State was rolled over by the Chancellor – and a downgraded Chancellor at that.
We have now the worst of all worlds.
A department suffering from an excess of stupidity, and an absence of spine.
The cost is paid not by the members of the front bench but by a million children plunged into poverty and 3 ½ million disabled people hurt by his reforms.
And yet, instead of seeking to bring the Housing Benefit bill down by doing the sensible thing and building more social houses, the government has cut the home building grant so hard that we have a house building crisis.
Now what does the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party have to say about that little mess?
Well, here is Nick Clegg’s comments on 24 January:
“If I’m going to be sort of self-critical, there was this reduction in capital spending when we came into the Coalition Government.”
So during the current spending round, we’re spending £94 billion on Housing Benefit, and £4.5 billion on building homes.
Crazy. And it’s going to get worse….especially after the downgrade.
The tragedy, Mr Speaker is that there is an alternative.
To bring the welfare bill down, we must get people into jobs.
That’s why we’re calling for a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.
That would be real welfare reform.
That would be real welfare to work.
That would be a real alternative, not a cruel and unusual punishment from a cruel and useless government.