Iain Duncan Smith refused to speak during a Bedroom Tax debate and got a junior minister to answer every question

Opposition MPs said they were 'flabbergasted' by the minister's approach

Iain Duncan Smith has been criticised for remaining silent during a parliamentary debate of recent court ruling on his “bedroom tax” policy.

The Work and Pensions Secretary was called to the House of Commons to answer an urgent question about the Court of Appeal ruling the bedroom tax unlawful and discriminatory.

Mr Duncan Smith however did not speak during the session and instead let his junior minister Justin Tomlinson answer all questions put by MPs on the subject.

The Work and Pensions Secretary sat next to Mr Tomlinson and could be seen occasionally talking quietly with him on the front bench.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said he was “flabbergasted” by Mr Duncan Smith’s behaviour and accused him of “ducking his responsibilities”.

Other MPs also criticised Mr Duncan Smith’s silence. In response to one, Mr Tomlinson said: “In fairness, I am the minister who responds to housing questions in Parliament”.

MPs expressed their disappointment at not being able to grill Mr Duncan Smith.

The Court of Appeal ruled the Bedroom Tax unlawful after two legal challenges: one by the family of a severely disabled teenager and the other by a rape victim whose police-installed panic room was subject to the charge.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court – the UK’s highest and final appellate court.

A DWP spokesman 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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