Bedroom tax is 'cruel and unusual' punishment

Bedroom tax: A cruel and unusual punishment?
Bedroom tax: A cruel and unusual punishment?

By Tony Hudson

The government's proposed bedroom tax has been described as "a cruel and unusual punishment" during a debate in the Commons.

During a heated exchange, shadow pensions secretary Liam Byrne said the policy would be fundamentally unfair in light of the cut to the top rate of income tax.

"It's cruel and unusual to reward the rich and punish the poor. In what world is that fair? Only a Tory world defended by a Liberal Democrat", he said.

The protests over the government's proposal to dramatically cut benefits for any social housing tenants who have a room deemed a 'spare bedroom' have become increasingly vocal since Ed Miliband seized on them during PMQs two weeks ago.

Byrne went on to criticise Iain Duncan Smith's claim that the measure would save the government a significant amount of money.

"If the secretary believes this policy will save as much as they're promising, he is deluded", he added.

Labour was not the only party to heap criticism on the policy. Mike Weir of the SNP called it "ridiculous" and Green party MP Caroline Lucas branded it "an attempt by the government to get rid of social housing".

Pensions minister Steve Webb said the government would try to exempt all foster families from the policy.

"If people need a spare bedroom for a foster child we will make sure that they have one and we will support people who are fosterers," he said.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes demanded further concessions before the Conservatives could rely on Lib Dem support.

"There are categories - such as those with disabilities, those who have to have separate rooms, those with teenage or university children or service children - who I hope you will still address because I don't believe their needs are being adequately met so far," he said.

Since the proposal was announced, several stories have highlighted individual people and families who will be affected by the bedroom tax.

A majority of Brits think the policy should be delayed and 45% want it abolished altogether.

Webb called the current system "a spare bedroom subsidy" for one million spare rooms and claimed the change was needed to get the housing benefit tab down.

"These are Labour cuts because of a Labour deficit", he said.

Under the proposal, anyone with one spare bedroom will face a 14% cut and anyone with two or more will face a 25% cut. It is estimated this new system will effect up to 660,000 social housing tenants.


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