'Bedroom tax' to be abolished as Coalition is rocked by Lib Dem-Labour alliance
Commons rebellion means controversial policy is almost certainly doomed
One of the Coalition’s most unpopular and punitive policies is finally on track for abolition, after Labour and the Liberal Democrats united to vote against the bedroom tax.
MPs voted by 304 to 267 for a Bill, brought in by a backbench Lib Dem MP Andrew George, to limit the scope of the policy which penalises council tenants who are deemed to have more rooms than they need.
Mr George later admitted that he had not expected the Tories to be so heavily defeated in what he imagined would be a close vote. “It was such a stonking victory that if that coalition can hold together in the coming months we should get this Bill through,” he said.
Shadow works and pensions minister, Chris Bryant added jubilantly: “This is the beginning of the end of the bedroom tax. Whether we will manage to get it all the way through by the general election, I don’t know – but we’ll try our damnedest, and we’ll certainly abolish it afterwards.”
Despite the efforts of Government whips to get Tory MPs into Parliament to oppose Mr George’s Bill, about 70 Conservative MPs were absent, while all but a handful of Labour MPs and 52 out of 55 Lib Dem MPs, including four Cabinet ministers – Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Alistair Carmichael – and the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, voted against the Government. Nick Clegg, who was at the Nato summit in Wales, was one of the three Lib Dems who missed the vote.
“What this vote shows is that David Cameron is a Prime Minister whose authority is weakening day by day,” the Labour leader Ed Miliband said afterwards. “He is losing his MPs, he is losing votes in the House of Commons and it is Labour which is setting the agenda for fairness.”
Mr George’s Affordable Homes Bill would mean that tenants would be affected by what the Government calls the “withdrawal of the spare bedroom subsidy” only if they have been offered somewhere else to live but have turned it down. It would also exempt the disabled. Under present conditions, that would knock a large sum off what the Government hopes to save.
The public rift between Tories and Lib Dems – who had previously been criticised for backing the tax – led one maverick Tory MP to declare coalition government dead. “We will clearly have a free-for-all for the rest of the Parliament,” Philip Davies told MPs.
Under the “withdrawal of the spare bedroom subsidy” council tenants lose 14 per cent of housing benefit if they are deemed to have one unused bedroom, and 25 per cent if they have two or more. The measure was intended to give tenants whose children have left home an incentive to move into somewhere smaller.
Critics said the Government brought it in without creating any new, smaller homes for the affected tenants to move to. Tenants who have been hit by it include couples who say they need separate rooms because one of them is disabled.
The Department of Work and Pensions said there will be no immediate change in policy. “It is a fair policy that is saving the taxpayer more than £1m a day,” a spokeswoman said.
- 1 Astrological signs are almost all wrong, as movement of moon and sun throws out zodiac
- 2 Dad eats daughter's weed brownies, thinks he's had a stroke
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...