The Bedroom Tax is a cruel and unfair policy that hits over 600,000 people, including over 400,000 disabled people. At Labour Party conference Ed Miliband announced that the next Labour government will repeal the Bedroom Tax with a fully funded plan to do so without additional borrowing. Today I challenged Nick Clegg on the Government’s justification for the bedroom tax when for 96% of tenants, there is no smaller home to go to and asked him to repeal it.
Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab):
Will the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge that his Government’s justification for the bedroom tax—that it will mean tenants moving to smaller homes—cannot work unless there are smaller homes for them to move to? What is his estimate of the percentage of tenants for whom there is no smaller home to go to?
The Deputy Prime Minister:
I totally accept the premise, which is that a change from one system to another involves hard cases that need to be—[Interruption.] That is why we are providing hard cash for hard cases. We have trebled the discretionary housing payments that are available to local councils. I am not in any way seeking to ignore the fact that some individual cases really do need the flexibility and the money from local authorities to enable their circumstances to be dealt with.
Let me say this to the right hon. and learned Lady. If there is a principled objection to this change, I do not understand why, in all the years during which Labour was in government, exactly the same provisions existed for millions of people in the private rented sector.
This is the central issue in the Government’s justification for a policy that the Deputy Prime Minister has brought forward and voted for. He obviously does not want to admit that for 96% of tenants, there is no smaller home to go to. No wonder councils are saying that the discretionary housing fund is completely inadequate to help all the families who cannot move and are falling into arrears. Does he recognise that this is a cruel and unfair policy that he should not have voted for? He should repeal it now.