We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Under-occupancy Penalty

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 27th February 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 11:30 am, 27th February 2013

What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the under-occupancy penalty on social housing in Wales.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the under-occupancy penalty on social housing in Wales.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

Information on the expected impact of the social sector under-occupancy measure is provided in the impact assessment prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Local authorities in Wales need roughly 550 new couples every year to volunteer to be foster parents. Is it not a ludicrous own goal to include potential foster families in the bedroom tax? Before Government Members start complaining about the term “bedroom tax”, let me say that I heard the Prime Minister use it. It looks like a tax, it feels like a tax and it is unfair on those who are going to have to pay it.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

The hon. Gentleman describes a reduction in Government expenditure as a tax. Opposition Members confuse their debt with their deficits and they spent 13 years describing out-of-control public spending as investment. I agree with the point made by Stephen Doughty on 5 February when he said that people who suffer from low levels of financial literacy struggle to make correct budgeting decisions. Chris Bryant and his party are proof of that.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

I shall take the moment, Mr Speaker.

One immediate measure that would protect the most-vulnerable people would be to exempt those on disability living allowance from this tax. Will the Minister urgently review this policy?

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

Let me start by wishing the right hon. Lady well with the important job that the Prime Minister has asked her to do on complaints in the NHS. I know that she has the respect and support of the whole House.

I understand the concerns among the disabled community about the implementation of this measure, but we are making substantial resource available for local authorities to assist with the difficult specific cases, among which I expect the disabled to be included.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Can there be any justification for treating tenants on housing benefit in social housing differently from tenants on housing benefit in the private rented sector, and how can it possibly lie in the mouth of those who changed the law on housing benefit for those in the private rented sector to complain when we extend exactly the same provisions to those on housing benefit in social housing? Have I missed something?

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

My hon. Friend highlights very well the total incoherence of Labour’s position. It is even harder to justify maintaining a subsidy for spare rooms given the country’s financial condition and the need to reduce the deficit and restore financial budgetary discipline.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Education), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I draw the House’s attention to the motion this afternoon and encourage right hon. and hon. Members to participate in the debate and to join us in the Lobby.

DWP Ministers tell me that no assessment has been made of the flexibility of the housing market in rural Wales in order to respond to the bedroom tax. Has the Under-Secretary made any such assessment?

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

There are different types of housing stock throughout Wales, but one problem facing the whole of Wales is that of overcrowding and long housing waiting lists. It cannot be justifiable that, at the same time as people are receiving housing benefit for spare rooms, in the same streets and on the same housing estates there are houses with three or four children in the same bedroom.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

How on earth can the Minister defend a policy that is unfair and unworkable and will penalise the disabled, forces’ families and foster parents in Wales? Does he deny that his Government’s own impact assessment shows that Wales will be harder hit than anywhere else in the UK? Is there not a single issue on which he and the Secretary of State will stand up for Wales?

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Government Whip

There is nothing caring, compassionate or progressive about walking away from our responsibility to fix the deficit and the debt. If we do not do that, the very people we will hurt in the future will be the poor and the vulnerable—the very people whom we all came into politics to defend?