Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 4:47 pm, 25th March 2013

I will conclude now, because many other Members want to speak. I have been generous in giving way but I want to finish on this point.

Last Friday a constituent came to see me in my surgery. He is a man in his late 50s who has worked for the past 42 years, until last December when he became unwell. He currently has to live on £71 a week and has just received a council tax bill for £108.25. He is not sure how is going to pay it and he asked me—it is quite something when someone says this to a Member of Parliament, because we had not met before—“Can I tell you that I can no longer keep the heating on in my flat because it costs me £25 a week and I do not have the money to pay it?”

The Chancellor, the Secretary of State and other Ministers are fond of telling us that we have to make really tough decisions, but I wonder how difficult it was to decide to give those on highest incomes a tax reduction at the beginning of next month, while imposing a reduction in council tax benefit and the bedroom tax on people. They are taking money from those who are poor—that is what we are talking about—and giving it to those who are rich. That is why they should scrap the cut to council tax benefit and get rid of the bedroom tax.

The Secretary of State was full of his usual bravado and occasional bluster in what he had to say, but the cold hard reality of the collision of his policies with people’s lives shows that those policies are not well thought out and are incapable of being delivered. Because of that record, we have a promise of growth that has not materialised, a promise of localism that is not what it seems, and a promise of homes that have not been built. This Chancellor, this Secretary of State, and this Budget have nothing to offer the people of Britain.