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

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes