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

[Mr James Gray in the Chair] — Housing Benefit

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:52 am on 13th October 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 10:52 am, 13th October 2010

I have already congratulated Margaret Hodge on securing this important debate. I also congratulate Ms Buck; the Select Committee's loss is the Labour Front Bench's gain. She and many other hon. Members who have spoken bring to the debate a great deal of expert knowledge on housing. In the eight minutes remaining, I shall do my best to respond to some of the key points that were made.

My hon. Friend Bob Russell is a doughty campaigner on housing issues and I hope that he always will be. He raised very important questions. Are the measures not bad for child poverty? What about disabled people? A number of hon. Members mentioned the position of vulnerable groups. My response to my hon. Friend is twofold, but principally it is that if we examine what we are spending on housing benefit, we see clear evidence that a significant part of our spending is not subsidising people in need to have decent housing, but subsidising landlords. In each of the past five years, we spent an additional £1 billion in real terms; each year it was another billion, then another and then another.

I want to put a hypothetical scenario to my hon. Friend. The Department for Communities and Local Government says to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "We want to spend £1 billion next year building affordable homes." The Chancellor says, "Yes, I'd like to do that." Then he goes to the Department for Work and Pensions and we have just put in a bid for another £1 billion and another £1 billion for housing benefit, and he has to go back to the DCLG and say, "I'm sorry. The DWP has claimed that £1 billion. It's not available for affordable housing. It's not available for tackling child poverty." The crucial point is that we have a housing benefit system that protects the vulnerable but does not pre-empt resources that could be spent on the very things on which we in this Chamber want to spend money.