Grant Shapps protests to UN over special investigator's 'disgraceful' comments on 'bedroom tax'

Tory chairman writes to UN secretary general demanding an apology

The Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Shapps, has become embroiled in an extraordinary row with a United Nations official who criticised the Government’s so-called “bedroom tax”.

Mr Shapps accused Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing, of failing to consult ministers or officials before criticising the policy at the end of her two-week fact-finding mission to Britain.

He said he was writing to the UN Secretary-General to complain about her visit, which, he said, was not at the invitation of the UK Government.

But it later emerged that Ms Rolnik had met with two ministers to discuss her report and had also had detailed discussions with policy officials.

Her visit has also been sanctioned by the Government under long-standing principles which allow UN officials access to member states to conduct fact-finding missions.

Ms Rolnik’s final report will be presented in Geneva to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

The row began after Ms Rolnik gave interviews at the end of her visit attacking the Government’s policy of penalising council tenants who have a spare room.

She said the policy was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people. “The right to housing is not about… reshuffling people according to a snapshot of the number of bedrooms at a given night,” she said. “It is about enabling environments for people to maintain their family and community bonds, their local schools, workplaces and health services.”

Her comments elicited a furious response from Mr Shapps. “I think this report is an absolute disgrace,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “How is it that a woman from Brazil – a country that has 50 million people in inadequate housing – has come over, failed to meet with any government minister, with any official from the Department [for] Work and Pensions [DWP] or to refer to the policy by its accurate name… She has come over with an agenda and clearly has an axe to grind.”

Ms Rolnik later described Mr Shapps’s comments as “absolutely not true”. Struggling to contain her anger, she cited specific meetings she had with government ministers Don Foster and Eric Pickles, and added: “I requested to meet with the highest possible officials, and I met with the DWP, and had more than one meeting with the ones in the DWP who are responsible.” She claimed her meetings with government officials had been “very fruitful” and that her report was “absolutely not one-sided”.

Raquel Rolnik v Grant Shapps: Tale of the tape

Name Raquel Rolnik

Tagline Fiery Brazilian architect

Role UN Special Rapporteur on housing

Past battles During a visit to Israel last year she accused the Government of implementing a “strategy of Judaization” with its housing and policy which discriminated against Palestinians. The Israeli Government retorted that she had manifested “such a profound misunderstanding of basic realities that one really feels obliged to request the honourable rapporteur to go back to square one and do her homework properly.”

Name Grant Shapps

Tagline Spiky British politician

Role Tory Party Chairman

Past battles Earlier this year he claimed that “nearly a million people” on incapacity benefit had dropped their claims, rather than face a new medical assessment. He was rebuked by the Government statistics watchdog who said there was no evidence those who abandoned their claims did so for the reasons claimed by Shapps. He has also been accused of contradictory claims about his place of birth – when he was standing for election for a South London seat it was stated he was born in London, while after he won his Welwyn Hatfield seat it was claimed he was born in Hertfordshire.

Oliver Wright

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz