Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Challenging Nick Clegg at DPMQs - 12/02/13

Today at Deputy Prime Ministers Questions I challenged Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg on the bedroom tax which will affect people across the country from April this year.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): The bedroom tax is going to hit people all around the country. It is bad enough in my borough of Southwark, but even worse in the Deputy Prime Minister’s city of Sheffield, where 5,027 people will be hit. This is not a policy to tackle under-occupation because these people cannot move, and they have no choice but to pay. That is why it is called the bedroom tax. People only get housing benefit if they are on a low income. Will he admit to the House that this is deeply unfair and will make people on low incomes worse off?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The problem that the right hon. and learned Lady cannot duck is that 1.8 million households are waiting to get on to social housing provision and 1 million bedrooms are standing empty. It does not make sense to have a benefits system that continues to support this mismatch between people needing places to live and empty bedrooms, and that is what we are trying to address. As with so many things in the reform of welfare, why were there no reforms of any meaningful description under Labour yet now Labour Members baulk at every single tough decision that we must take?

Ms Harman: This policy will not address the problem of under-occupation unless there are places for people to move to. It is the saving of public money by making people on low incomes worse off. Is not what the Deputy Prime Minister just said exactly the same as what the Tory Prime Minister said from that Dispatch Box last week? They might be two separate parties, but for the families they are penalising with the bedroom tax, they are exactly the same.

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