Welfare Reform Bill

Part of Tied Public Houses (Code of Practice) – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 9th March 2011.

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Photo of John Leech John Leech Liberal Democrat, Manchester, Withington 4:29 pm, 9th March 2011

Yes, that is true, and it might lead to people being forced to go into private rented accommodation and not having a protected tenancy.

I want to comment on the proposals to cap benefit at £500 a week for families and £350 for a single person with no children. I recognise that a cap on benefit is justifiable to make work pay, but the cap should exclude housing benefit costs, which can vary dramatically in different parts of the country. Given that the cap on housing benefit for four-bedroom houses will be £400 a week, large families might be expected to survive on as little as £100 per week if total benefit is capped at £500 a week. Under other proposed changes, homeless families will receive only one reasonable offer, which might be of a private rented property that could swallow up the vast majority of their total benefit entitlement. The answer to this problem is to calculate a maximum benefit excluding housing benefit to ensure that families in receipt of benefit have enough to live on, regardless of the cost of housing locally. That is the only way to guarantee that they will have enough to live on.

Finally, although this point is not directly related to the Bill’s contents, I suggest to Ministers that the best way to tackle escalating housing benefit would be to invest properly in affordable social housing and bring more empty homes back into use. That would not only massively boost the construction industry but help reduce rents in the private sector, which is holding tenants to ransom. There would be a short-term cost, but it would give a major boost to the economy and there would be a long-term reduction in housing benefit costs.