The Government has been accused writing a “blank cheque” to lawyers to mount legal defences of its so-called “bedroom tax” policy.
Yesterday the Court of Appeal ruled the controversial under-occupancy charge was unlawful and discriminatory because of its effect on a severely disabled teenager and a rape victim.
The Government instantly said it would appeal the decision at the Supreme Court, but Labour said ministers were wasting money on legal fees to defend a policy “that has failed in every regard”.
“Can the minister confirm there are 280 victims of domestic violence that have had panic rooms installed house under the Sanctuary scheme affected by the policy – and can he confirm that exempting those people from the bedroom tax would cost the Government a mere £200,000,” Owen Smith, shadow DWP secretary asked in the House of Commons.
“By comparison can he tell us how many hundreds of thousands of pounds he’s spent on legal fees defending this policy and how much more he’s prepared to spend? Is this a blank cheque to defend this to the end?”
DWP minister Justin Tomlinson, who was fielding questions for the Government, did not respond directly to the question.
“We fundamentally disagree with yesterday’s court of appeal ruling,” he said.
Asked later by another MP why the Government was “spending taxpayers’ money on an appeal”, Mr Tomlinson replied: “Because we want to make sure those who are vulnerable get the right support.”
One of the two successful appeals was brought by a woman identified as ‘A’ who had been a victim of domestic violence. Her home has been specially adapted by police to include a panic room.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/18 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
2/18 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
3/18 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
4/18 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
5/18 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
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Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
15/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
17/18 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
18/18 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
Her lawyers claimed the policy discriminated against her because she would have to leave a room that had been adapted for her safety.
The second successful appeal was brought by Paul and Susan Rutherford on behalf of their severely disabled grandson Warren.
Warren suffers from a rare genetic disorder and requires 24 hour care because he cannot walk, talk or feed himself.
The couple was hit by the bedroom tax because they have a room that is used for overnight carers and storing specialist medical equipment.
The court found the policy’s impact on disabled children was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
A DWP spokesperson said the people found to have been discriminated against were in receipt of discretionary housing payment – payment provided by councils to cancel out the effects of the “bedroom tax”.
“We are pleased that the court found – once again – that we have complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We fundamentally disagree with the court’s ruling on the ECHR, which directly contradicts the High Court. We have already been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“We know there will be people who need extra support. That is why we are giving local authorities over £870m in extra funding over the next five years to help ensure people in difficult situations like these don’t lose out.”
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