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[Mr James Gray in the Chair] — Housing Benefit

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

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

No. People are making decisions about new tenure choices all the time, and we are saying this: why should those whose rents are wholly paid by the taxpayer not face the same constraints as those who are in low-paid work? I take the point made by the hon. Member for Westminster North that the two are not distinct categories; there is movement between the two. However, people in low-paid work are not choosing to live in the most expensive parts of the city, because they know that they would have to be able to pay those rents out of their wages. Why should people on benefit be in an advantageous position, in terms of their housing choice, compared with those in low-paid work? That simply is not right.

I am convinced that nothing in my language or my ministerial colleagues' language is about clearances or scroungers. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about value for money for the taxpayer, including the low-paid taxpayers in the constituencies of each hon. Member present, whose taxes are going to subsidise those exorbitant rents. Although we have heard that those very high rents are exceptional, I was appalled when I discovered that the 5,000 families to whom we pay the most housing benefit cost the taxpayer an annual £100 million-5,000 families receive £100 million a year just in housing benefit, leaving other benefits aside. It cannot be right that low-paid workers in our constituencies, people dealing with child poverty and disabled people are paying taxes to pay those rents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester asked about the position of disabled people. One of the changes that has not been reported is the improvements to the system of housing benefit for disabled people who need a non-resident carer. We are spending an extra £10 million on writing off that extra bedroom in the housing benefit assessment, because we recognise the particular needs of disabled people.

These are huge issues and it is disappointing to have only a few moments to respond to them. The crucial consideration is to be fair-yes, to people on benefit, but also to the low-paid taxpayers whose taxes are paying for these things. If we simply pay the full, very high rents, we make it very difficult for people to take work, which will ultimately be the best antidote to child poverty and the best long-term prospect for people. That is the goal of the reforms.