13 February 2014

The bedroom tax, which came into force on 1 April 2013, is a wicked piece of legislation and it has comprehensively failed; wrong and incompetent. Well, that’s my view but its creators and supporters  do not see it at all like that of course, quite the opposite. The other day in the Commons its advocates, the people who voted to create it, melted like snow in summer, shrank like violets, coyed like maidens. Faced with a bill to repeal their tax, Tories and Libdems abstained in bulk.

Ian Lavery introduced the repeal bill and spelt its purpose out: “the full and sole intention of this bill is to sweep away the dreaded bedroom tax” (Hansard 12 February 2014).

How did Cornwall Libdem MPs vote? Hansard shows a party mired in disunity and, to outside onlookers, confusion. Look at these votes since autumn 2012.

Hansard 24 October 2012 column 1047
A Tory Libdem government motion to approve the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (the bedroom tax)
Andrew George voted against the motion
Stephen Gilbert voted for motion
No vote is recorded for Dan Rogerson
All three Tory MPs (George Eustice, Sheryll Murray, and Sarah Newton) voted for the motion.

Hansard 12 November 2013 columns 823-923
A Labour motion to end the bedroom tax immediately and a Tory Libdem anti-repeal amendment: two votes
Andrew George voted for the repeal motion and against the amendment
Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson voted against the repeal motion and for the amendment
All three Tory MPs (Eustice, Murray, and Newton) voted against the motion and for the amendment.

George’s speech in the debate is at column 854. He said of the bedroom tax: “This policy will not increase the stock of desperately needed affordable homes for local people. The spare room penalty or bedroom tax victimises the most marginalised in our communities, undermines family life, penalises the hard-working low-paid for being prepared to stomach low-paid work, and masks the excessive cost and disruption to the disabled who have to move from expensively adapted homes. It is, in my view, Dickensian in its social divisiveness. It is an immoral policy.”

Hansard 12 February 2014 column 869-873
As mentioned above, a Labour motion for a bill to sweep away the bedroom tax by ensuring people receiving housing benefits “should not be financially penalised in relation to the number of bedrooms in a residence”.
Andrew George and Stephen Gilbert voted for the bill motion
No vote is recorded for Rogerson, Eustice, Murray, and Newton.

To summarise and cut through the parliamentary goobledygook: George has voted against the bedroom tax in all four votes; Gilbert has voted for the tax three times and against once; and Rogerson has voted for the tax twice and has not voted twice.

Gilbert’s interpretation
Actually, I’m not sure exactly how to characterise Gilbert’s 12 February vote. Ian Lavery, the mover of the motion, made its intent very clear as I noted at the beginning of this post: repeal of the bedroom tax. Gilbert says he was voting for a review and does not mention repeal: see here.

Heaping misery and hardship
Yesterday, David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF) explained well the effect of the tax in driving people into rent arrears: “it is heaping misery and hardship on already struggling families, pushing them into arrears”. The NHF statement is here.

UPDATE 28 February 2014
Now this report in the Independent 27 February 2014:
“Lib Dems must oppose bedroom tax, says party president Tim Farron. Mr Farron says the policy is ‘wrong and unnecessary’ ”