Don’t let the appearance of serious concern fool you – Roger Williams has done more harm than good in the last five years. Can you say that your MP hasn’t?
You can tell there’s an election on the way when the dreaded Liberal Democrat Block Graph appears in your letterbox.
“Only Roger Williams MP and the Lib Dems can stop the Tories here in Brecon & Radnorshire!” today’s leaflet screamed, while the graph pointed to a 10 per cent turnout for Labour (highlighted in orange – isn’t that the Lib Dems’ colour?) from 2010 to illustrate its point.
But 2010 was a long time ago. Since then, Roger has betrayed us all in Parliamentary votes many times.
Are you upset about the funding cuts to local government services? Roger voted for those cuts.
Struggling to pay your council tax? Roger voted strongly to make councils responsible for helping people pay – and for reducing the amount spent on that support.
Are you unemployed, sick or disabled? Roger voted strongly for cuts to welfare benefits, and for the uprating cap that means benefits don’t rise in line with prices.
He voted against investing public money in guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time out of work.
He voted to increase VAT, but not to increase taxes for the immensely rich – and he fully supported cutting the rate of corporation tax, so rich firms became even richer.
Remember the bankers who caused the financial crisis? Roger voted against clawing back money from them. He refused to support the bankers’ bonus tax.
Remember the botched privatisation of the Royal Mail? Roger fully supported it.
He voted very strongly in favour of ending financial support for people aged 16-19 in training and further education.
He voted very strongly in favour of restricting access to justice so that only the rich can get a fair hearing in court, by restricting the scope of Legal Aid – and he voted for the creation of so-called ‘secret courts’.
He is in favour of the waste of money known as Police and Crime Commissioners, against restricting rises in rail fares, very strongly for selling off England’s state-owned forests and against green energy.
Oh – and he voted for the Bedroom Tax too.
He also voted very strongly in favour of the Tories’ creeping privatisation of the National Health Service.
His leaflet states: “The Tories want to cut pay for Llandrindod Wells’ nurses and teachers. Who can stop them?”
Not Roger Williams, obviously. His record shows he has been cheering them on.
This writer actually helped vote Roger Williams into his Parliamentary seat, back in 2001. Admittedly it was a tactical choice, to make sure that the constituency did not go to a Conservative candidate.
Now I know that, given the chance, Roger won’t act in the best interest of the people, but in those of whoever gives him his orders that day.
Here’s a meme that’s appropriate to the subject. Click on it and you should go to a linked article on Another Angry Voice:
Here in Brecon and Radnorshire we have a Liberal Democrat MP – Roger Williams – who voted to support the Bedroom Tax (and probably all the others) at first and has now turned his back on it to support the Affordable Housing Bill, put forward by his party colleague Andrew George.
In local newspaper the Brecon and Radnor Express (of which Yr Obdt Srvt used to be the editor), he defended his actions by saying: “We found first of all it doesn’t work and secondly it creates hardship for many tenants. We’re not stupid enough not to amend legislation which has proven to be not fit for purpose.”
Further into the article Mr Williams admitted he initially supported the policy in the belief that it would actually do what the Conservatives said it would, and get people moving into appropriate housing: “My support was on the basis I get so many young people and couples coming to my office about inadequate housing while so many are living in social housing that is bigger than necessary. My support was on the basis we would get some mobility in social housing; that hasn’t happened.”
What utter, dissembling bilge!
We all knew the Bedroom Tax would never succeed in its stated aim of getting social tenants to move into more appropriately-sized accommodation because there simply wasn’t enough available – the Tories had sold off most of it during the 1980s and 1990s, while denying councils the ability to build replacements.
When the Bedroom Tax became law in April last year, only a tiny fraction of the amount of appropriate social housing was available for people affected, who wanted to downsize. The others were captives in their own homes, forced to pay a tax because they had been allocated a home that was larger than the law said they needed. In most cases, this was in turn because it was the only size accommodation available.
The Conservatives all knew that. Vox Political published it. It is unrealistic of Mr Williams to expect us to believe that he and the Liberal Democrats did not know it.
If you can’t believe what they’re saying about what they’ve done in the past, why should you believe what they say they’ll do in the future?
Here’s a letter sent to houses here in Brecon and Radnorshire. It starts with the famous Lib Dem block graph, which is a mainstay of all their election communications in places where they have won seats. Presumably they keep using it because it is effective but one has to doubt this example, as it does not feature a European election result, but that of the last UK general election in 2010.
They cannot use a block graph to show a favourable result in the last European election because they don’t have any Welsh MEPs, and the result in the last Welsh Assembly election (in 2011) showed support was already eroding away as a result of their toxic alliance with the Conservative Party in Westminster, along with some spectacularly effective campaigning by the local Labour Party.
The result is a misleading graphic that shows a massive Liberal Democrat majority, coupled with the slogan, “Only the Lib Dems can beat the Tories here”, where in fact we have two Labour MEPs, one Tory and one representing Plaid Cymru.
It hardly encourages confidence when a political letter – from one of the ruling parties in Westminster – begins with a filthy lie.
The text of the letter, by the constituency’s Liberal Democrat MP Roger Williams, asks where the reader wants to be working in five or 10 years, and suggests we will be looking for more pay, promotions and a better quality of life. He states that it is important to protect the economic recovery, but “all that hard work could be undone” if Britain pulls out of the EU “as UKIP and many Conservatives want to do”.
Thanks to the UK’s Coalition government, ordinary hard-working people are receiving far less pay than before the 2010 election, with a corresponding drop in quality of life. Child poverty, for example, is rising fast. The economic recovery has helped nobody but the very top earners (like those in the Sunday Times ‘rich list’, published last weekend) – and besides, the Tory Democrats are not the only party keen to protect Britain’s place in Europe. For that, your best bet is still Labour or (in Wales) Plaid Cymru.
The letter continues: “Across rural Wales the EU has invested £5.8 million into local businesses struggling to find funding to grow and create more jobs, this is on top of the £26 million invested in promoting tourism to Wales which is vital to our local economy.” Yes indeed – but that money was negotiated by either a Labour government in Westminster or a Labour government in Cardiff Bay. It has little to do with the Tory Democrats!
The letter ends with an exhortation to vote for the Yellow Party’s nonentity candidate, whose name is instantly forgettable.
Alongside this came a double-sided flier offering more of what the Tory Democrats do best – negative campaigning. “Don’t gamble with Welsh jobs…” it states, “Stop UKIP and the Tories from risking Wales jobs”. A box-out with a red background says, “Labour stay silent” – which is a blatant falsehood.
Flip the page and you’ve got the pro-Tory Democrat bit – but they can only say they have “helped deliver” funding for superfast broadband, funding for small-to-medium-sized enterprises, and cash to support tourism. And who did they help?
It’s a sad little screed from an organisation in its twilight days.
Let’s look at my constituency MP, Roger Williams. He is a backbencher, not directly involved in policy matters, but he is also an illustration of what is wrong with the Coalition government.
I have no doubt that Roger genuinely wants to help people. Unfortunately loyalty to his party (the Liberal Democrats) and the Coalition means that something happens whenever he gets into the Commons chamber, and his concern for his constituents gets left at the door or perverted to mean something else.
Look at his performance during the food bank debate. The first thing he said was, “I felt very uneasy that some of the most vulnerable people, such as those I have met in my constituency, were being used as a political football across this Chamber. They would not have wanted that. They often feel a sense of indignity about going to food banks. They feel that it is in some way their own fault, but in many cases it is not their fault at all.”
There are worse things to be than a “political football”, Roger. If you are in serious financial plight because of government decisions, for example, it is far worse to be ignored.
He seemed woefully ignorant of the number of food banks in his Brecon and Radnorshire constituency, naming only the facility established by the New Life Church in Llandrindod Wells (which officially opened last summer but had been running itself in since the early months of the year) and one that is planned in Brecon. The food bank in Knighton was established in October 2012, and there are others in Hay-on-Wye and Ystradgynlais. I believe Rhayader is covered by a ‘satellite’ of the food bank in Llanidloes, across the Montgomeryshire border. This means almost all the major towns are covered, and I know efforts are being made to bring coverage to as many villages as possible, also.
Rather than discuss how the government could help rid his constituency of the need for food banks, Roger unwisely decided to talk them up as valuable additions to the community: “Before the food bank was established in my constituency, I had no organised place to refer people to… At least now I can direct them to somewhere they will get help.”
That is not the point; they should not be necessary in the world’s seventh-largest economy. There is no less money in the UK now than there was in 2010 – clearly somebody is hogging it all for themselves. Shouldn’t Roger – and his fellow backbenchers – be trying to secure a more equitable redistribution of wealth?
Perhaps he thinks this can be found through work, which he said “is the best way out of poverty”. We all know that, under the Coalition government, this has become a hollow lie – more working families are in poverty than workless or retired households put together, because of the policies of Mr Cameron’s government.
At least he agreed that “work is not always available for people”. This provided him with an opportunity to discuss the benefit system, whose failure is an equal cause (with poorly-paid work) of the need for food banks.
Guess what? Roger thinks his government is “making progress to make it better”. You may find this observation delusional when coupled with his next observation – that “Jobcentre Plus seems to be using different criteria in different towns to impose sanctions on people. Obviously, when sanctions are imposed, people are left in great difficulty.”
These statements are mutually exclusive. The government cannot be improving the benefit system for claimants when its staff are deliberately bending the rules to cut payments for those who need them.
In the final analysis, Mr Williams appears confused and bewildered – a poor representative of his constituency but an excellent example of the Coalition government’s policies.
He acknowledges that people hate having to attend food banks, but welcomes their growth in his constituency – even though he doesn’t know how many are here already.
He follows the party li(n)e that “work is the best way out of poverty”, in the face of all the evidence that his government’s policies are worsening in-work poverty.
And he tells us benefit claimants are getting a better service – then criticises Jobcentre Plus for the arbitrary and underhanded way it removes that service from people who have nothing.
Perhaps he will be better-informed after he meets ministers “to find out why the sanctions in different jobcentres have different criteria; why they have different systems for writing to and contacting people in order to encourage them to attend meetings; and why, if people do not attend those meetings, they get sanctioned”.
But he will probably leave those concerns at the door, next time he enters the House of Commons.
By now, we should all know how these Opposition Day debates go – but Wednesday’s discussion of food banks was one of the best examples I’ve heard.
The form goes like this: The relevant Labour shadow minister launches the debate, quoting the facts that support the argument (in this case, that the rise of food banks is a national disgrace and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s policies have caused it), the government denies the charge – always with the same feeble excuses, backbenchers queue up to tell their own damning stories of what has happened to their constituents… and then the government wins the vote because its members have been whipped to vote against the motion, rather than because they believe it is wrong.
The food bank debate was textbook. Not only did it carry all these features, but:
The Secretary of State responsible, Iain Duncan Smith, declined to speak at all, but turned tail and ran after listening to only a small number of speakers.
Minister of State Esther McVey, who spoke in his place, delivered what Labour veteran Gerald Kaufman described as “one of the nastiest frontbench speeches I’ve heard in more than 43 years”.
As one story of government-created hardship followed another, Conservative MPs laughed. Clearly they are enjoying the suffering they are causing across the UK.
Each of these is a damning indictment of the depths to which the Coalition has driven British politics. But the debate is only half of this matter. Now it is our duty to publicise what happened. Many people may not know about this, or may not understand its significance.
They need to understand that food bank use has risen exponentially under David Cameron’s Conservative-led government, from 41,000 people in 2010 to half a million by April this year, one-third of whom were children. People are resorting to them because the cost of living is rising while wages have stagnated and social security benefit payments have been delayed or slashed. The government promised to publish a study on food banks in the summer of this year, but has delayed publication with no stated reason. The government department responsible – DEFRA – did not even put up a minister to speak in the debate.
Probably the most damning indictment was the vote. The Coalition government defeated a motion to bring forward measures that would reduce dependency on food banks. The obvious conclusion is that this government is happy to be pushing ordinary working and jobless people into crushing poverty – and intends to continue putting more and more people in the same situation for just as long as it possibly can.
We heard that:
People in Slough are fighting each other over discount fruit and vegetables in the local Tesco.
Food banks are visited by skilled workers who are unable to get jobs because of Coalition government policies.
Serious failures including administrative error in the benefit system mean one-fifth of the people visiting food banks are there because the Department for Work and Pensions has been unable to do its job properly.
The Bedroom Tax has hugely increased the number of people using food banks.
“The working poor are emerging as the Prime Minister’s legacy, as millions of people live in quiet crisis.” (Labour’s Jamie Reed).
In response, the Tories trotted out the old, old arguments, trying yet again to sell us the long-disproved claim that Labour forced the country into poverty by mismanaging the national finances. We heard, again, the turncoat Lord Freud’s claim that people were visiting food banks because the items there were free (ignoring the fact that everyone who visits a food bank is referred by a qualified organisation, and verified as being in crisis). We heard, again, the suggestion from our ignorant Education Secretary Michael Gove, that people are turning to food banks because they cannot manage their own finances (good management makes no difference if costs outweigh income; but then he clearly hasn’t been educated well enough to understand that).
Esther McVey’s speech showed clearly why she should have remained on breakfast television, where comparatively few people had to put up with her. She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.
She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.
She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).
She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.
She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.
She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.
She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.
She said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.
She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.
Then, on top of all that, she had the nerve to tell the country, “Rewriting history doesn’t work.” If that is the case, then hers was one of the most pointless speeches in the history of Parliament.
Labour’s Jamie Reed had the best comment on the debate. He said: “The final verdict on any Government is based on how they treat the poorest in society during the hardest of times,” after pointing out that “the laughter from some of those on the Government benches … says more than words ever could.”
On a personal note, my own MP, Roger Williams, spoke about the food bank situation in Brecon and Radnorshire. It is gratifying that he is proud of the food bank set up by New Life Church, here in Llandrindod Wells – I well remember the telephone conversation I had with the organisers, in which I encouraged them to set it up. I am glad they took up the baton – and that he has appreciated their work.
Rather more worrying is the suggestion that he considers a possible new food bank in Brecon to be only the second in our constituency. There are food banks in many other towns, including Knighton, Ystradgynlais and Hay-on-Wye – with satellite facilities in smaller towns and villages. It is disturbing that the MP does not seem to know this.
Demonstrating for justice: Campaigners against the Bedroom Tax gathered outside Parliament while MPs debated it inside.
“I’m amazed Labour have chosen to spend their allotted day in Parliament arguing for more unfunded spending on housing benefit.” That’s what Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Sussex, had to say about the Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax in the House of Commons on November 12.
Hancock is, it seems, author of a book entitled Masters of Nothing, which sums up his understanding of the situation rather well. He clearly has not mastered the fact that the State Under-Occupation Charge will not save money. He has not mastered the fact that emptying dwellings of their current owners will not make them available to new familes as these people are afraid they will themselves be tipped onto the street when their circumstances change – instead the premises will be left empty, at huge cost to social landlords; and he has not mastered the fact that anyone evicted because of the tax will become a burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse them in bed and breakfast accommodation, even though the money provided to them for this purpose by the government is ludicrously inadequate to the task.
Hancock is not alone in having misconceptions about the Bedroom Tax. Most, if not all, of the Conservatives who spoke during the debate uttered howlers – and the purpose of this article is to name them and explain why they should be ashamed of their words.
Please take the opportunity, Dear Reader, to look for your own MP in the catalogue of calamity that follows, then use it to attack them in their own consituency. Let’s make them realise that actions have consequences.
If you don’t have a Tory MP, feel free to use what follows in order to make sure you never have to put up with one.
We begin with Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) who asked of Rachel Reeves: “What does she say to the almost 400,000 families who are living in overcrowded situations when they look over their shoulders at the almost one million spare bedrooms in Britain?”
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary responded without hesitation: “I say that instead of presiding over the lowest rate of house building since the 1920s, this Government should get on and build some houses.”
The Minister of State, Steve Webb, came back to this point later, saying: “Who was doing the house building for 13 years?” Well, we all know who hasn’t been doing it for the last three.
Mr Ellwood said the Tax was brought in because the cost of housing benefit was rising alarmingly: “After 13 years of Labour the cost of housing benefit doubled to £21 billion. That is unacceptable. The cost to taxpayers was £900 per household. The system was getting out of control.” His failure is that he refused to accept the explanation offered by Labour’s Katy Clark – that this was due to the rising cost of rent in the private sector (private rents have indeed been rising massively and the government refuses to take action because this would interfere with the market. Bizarrely, the Conservative-led Coalition seems to believe it is acceptable to pay huge gobs of housing benefit to private landlords – who make unreasonable demands – and then blame social renting tenants for it). He also, by inference, rejected the evidence that the Bedroom Tax will not save any money.
Mr Ellwood also referred to the deficit run by the Labour government of 1997-2010. He said: “Labour lived beyond its means. In 2002-03, it spent £26 billion beyond its means. Four years later that rose to £33 billion. In its final year of office, the deficit rose to £156 billion. That always accumulates.”
This is disingenuous. As he must know, not only did Labour run a lower deficit than the Conservative governments of both Thatcher and Major (average 41 per cent of gross domestic product) from 1997 to 2007, it also made a surplus in the 2000-2001 financial year – something that the previous Conservative governments never did. This means Labour actually paid off some of the debts that had been accumulating. With that pedigree, even the 43 per cent deficit of 2008 looks respectable. The higher deficits of 2009 and 2010 were entirely caused by the bankster-instigated financial crisis, when the actions taken by Labour were entirely supported by the Conservative Party.
He went on to condemn Labour for voting against £83 billion of welfare savings; if the reasoning for them was as shaky as that for the Bedroom Tax (and it was; see previous VP articles) then Labour was quite right to do so!
It should be noted that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, was not present at the debate. RTU (as we like to call him) was woofing it up in Paris, rather than accounting for his misbehaviour to the taxpayer.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) echoed a comment by Mr Webb, but did it in such an inept way that we’ll look at her words rather than his. Following Labour’s Stephen Twigg, she referred to the too-low allocation of Discretionary Housing Payment to families having to cope with the Bedroom Tax: “Perhaps he would like to speak to his Labour-run Liverpool council and ask why, when it received £892,000 in discretionary housing payments last year, it actually sent back £337,000.”
Mr Twigg put her straight: “Does she accept that the figures that she has given are from before the bedroom tax was introduced? This year, Liverpool city council will certainly spend the entire discretionary housing pot.”
His words echoed fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell, who had previously berated Mr Webb: “The Minister incorrectly gave figures for last year—the bedroom tax was introduced only in April. I was talking about money that will come back this year. I can guarantee that the Minister will not be getting any money back from Manchester this year — the year of the bedroom tax.”
Referring to the 400,000 disabled people affected by the Bedroom Tax, Mrs Reeves said 100,000 disabled people live in properties specially adapted for their disability, but the average grant issued by local authorities for adaptations to homes [when they are forced to move out by the Bedroom Tax] stands at £6,000. The total cost of doing the adaptations all over again could run into tens of millions of pounds.
At this moment, Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire), said while seated: “They’re exempt.”
The response: “The hon. Lady said from a sedentary position that disabled people are exempt, but she would not say it when she was on her feet because she knows it is not true.” In Vox Political‘s home constituency, at least one disabled person has already been evicted because of the Bedroom Tax.
Philip Davies (also known as ‘Stupid of Shipley’) weighed in with a shocking error, in an attempt to attack his local housing association and its director, a Labour MP: “Does the Minister agree that the spare room subsidy is one reason why we do not have the right mix of housing? Social housing providers could build houses as big as they wanted, knowing that the Government would cover the full bill irrespectively. In that respect, does he deplore the social housing provider in my area, of which a Labour MP is a director? It complains on the one hand that it has too many three-bedroom houses—”
That’s as far as he got, and just as well. Let’s go through this one more time: The ‘spare room subsidy’ is a fiction. It never existed and therefore could never have been abolished by the Conservative-led Coalition government. Being entirely make-believe, it could never have affected the decisions of social housing providers. This is just one of the many reasons why Mr Davies is rightly considered to be one of the biggest twits in the Tory Party (among hefty competition). Another might be his claim that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage.
David TC Davies (Monmouth) complained: “Opposition Members… do not want to talk about the fact that they introduced a measure like this for the private sector.”
He was among many Tories who complained about this apparent double-standard. Labour members reminded them that the Bedroom Tax is retrospective (affecting people currently in social housing) while the private-sector measure was for new tenants only. One may also ask why, if these Conservatives were so disturbed by the apparent discrepancy, they were not calling for this earlier measure to be scrapped as well.
George Hollingbery (Meon Valley) said: “We need to pose ourselves a question: what is dealing with the spare room subsidy about? Is it about reducing the housing benefit bill? Yes, of course it is. The Government propose a £500 million saving, which is important.”
It is important, because Conservatives seemed confused throughout the debate about whether they were trying to sort out overcrowding by putting people into appropriate accommodation, or trying to save money. The two are mutually exclusive. The only way to make money on the policy is for people to remain locked in housing that, thanks to the Bedroom Tax, is now too expensive for them – but this cannot last because they will soon be evicted for non-payment of rent. Moving people around, so that nobody is under-occupying, will result in a higher housing benefit bill because more people will be claiming – the original tenants in their new properties (which, if they are run by private landlords, will be more expensive) and the new tenants who will be occupying to the limit of a property’s capability and therefore may claim the full amount of housing benefit. Either way, Mr Hollingberry’s claim of a £500 million saving is pie-in-the-sky.
Margot James (Stourbridge) made a proper fool of herself. She said: “The Opposition… want to position the end of the subsidy and the creation of a level playing field between all recipients of social housing support as a modern day poll tax.” This is the least of her mistakes as some Labour members may have suggested such a thing; in fact it is Eric Pickles’ Council Tax Reduction Scheme that is the modern-day Poll Tax, because every household must now towards it.
Margot James went on to deny that the Bedroom Tax is a tax, saying: “A tax is a government levy on somebody’s income, whereas we are clearly talking about reducing a subsidy.” This is wrong on two counts. Firstly, there has been no subsidy to reduce – unless she was referring to housing benefit in its entirety. The spare room subsidy is, as already mentioned, as mythical as the “unicorns and fairies” to which Anne Main referred when she tried to dismiss the existence of the under-occupation charge as a tax on bedrooms. Both ladies are wrong, because a tax may also be defined as a government levy on property owned or used by a citizen (such as, say, a bedroom). So – not quite as mythical as unicorns and fairies. One has to wonder why Mrs Main mentioned these, as she has clearly been away with the fairies herself.
Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) breezed in from another committee to provide the benefit of his own ignorance. He asked: “Is it fair that someone on a low income who is in privately rented accommodation should pay taxes in order to subsidise someone else’s spare room? Is it fair to raise taxation from low-paid workers to subsidise other people’s accommodation?”
The answer, of course, is yes. It is fair. In fact, it is a principle of our system of taxation. Everybody pays into the national treasury, in order to allow the state to provide services – such as housing – for those in need. This may be a detail that current Tories have missed, considering the government’s vigorous attempts to write the highest earners out of taxation altogether. If he wanted to help low-waged people in private rented housing, the answer to that is also simple: cap their rents.
And doesn’t he know that the very low-paid have been lifted out of taxation by his own government, as the Coalition has been raising the threshold for payment of income tax every year, aiming to reach a target of £10,000 income per annum by 2015.
At the end of the day, the motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax was lost by 26 votes. Some have already said that Labour could have won it if all members had been present, but that was never really on the cards; the government has the numbers, even if some Liberal Democrats (like VP‘s own MP, Roger Williams) abstained.
So what are we to make of it all? Simply this: The Conservatives do not have a credible narrative to describe what the Bedroom Tax is about. It doesn’t save money; it won’t put people into appropriate accommodation; and it certainly won’t cut homelessness!
Work out what it’s really about, and you will understand why they are so desperate to keep it.
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