Housing benefit cuts defeated by House of Lords in welfare reform vote

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Dec 15 01:37:53 GMT 2011

Housing benefit cuts defeated by House of Lords in welfare reform vote

Peers, including 13 Lib Dems and one Tory, voted 
by 258 to 190 to limit coalition's proposed 
penalties for social housing tenants

Patrick Wintour -  guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 December 2011 20.45 GMT

Housing benefit cuts have served the coalition 
its first heavy defeat over the welfare reform 
bill. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The government suffered the first of what may be 
a series of heavy defeats over the welfare reform 
bill when peers threw out plans to dock housing 
benefit from people who have spare bedrooms.

Ministers had proposed that social housing 
tenants deemed to have one extra bedroom would 
lose £12 a week and people with two or more extra bedrooms £22 a week.

But peers voted by 258 to 190 to limit the 
penalties to only those households with two or 
more spare bedrooms and those with one extra room 
who have been offered suitable alternative accommodation.

The cost of the rebellion is put at £500m, but 
the government will overturn the vote when the 
bill returns to the Commons in the New Year.

As many as 13 Liberal Democrats rebelled and one 
Tory peer, the former welfare minister Lord 
Newton. Not a single crossbencher backed the government.

With respected figures such as Lady Hollis, the 
former Labour social security minister, working 
with crossbenchers and peers on other amendments, 
the government now faces the real prospect of 
further defeats. It has already avoided two 
further defeats over cuts to disability funds by one vote.

In a bid to head off Wednesday's rebellion, Lord 
Freud, the welfare minister, promised an 
additional £30m a year on discretionary housing 
payments to help some of those who could be hardest hit.

He said bringing in the under-occupation rules, 
which would be introduced from April 2013, was 
"essential to reduce housing benefit expenditure 
which, without reform, would reach £25bn in cash terms by 2014-15".

Defending the proposals, Freud told peers: "We 
have had to make some hard choices here in order 
to make the necessary savings as part of the deficit reduction plan," he said.

"The size criteria measure will only affect 
working-aged housing benefit claimants in the 
social rented sector who are underoccupying their accommodation."

He said the cuts in benefit would be 14% for 
people with one spare bedroom – an average of £12 
a week – and 25% for people with two or more 
spare bedrooms – an average of £22 per week.

"In England approximately 420,000 households in 
the social rented sector underoccupy their 
accommodation by two bedrooms or more while over 
a quarter of a million households are overcrowded," he said.

Liberal Democrat Lord Kirkwood, a former spocial 
security spokesman for his party told his 
colleagues "If you don't vote for it you are just 
going to have to live with the consequences."
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