‘Defeat pointing to coalition split’

MP for Shipley, Philip Davies
MP for Shipley, Philip Davies
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A LIBERAL Democrat move to water down the so-called bedroom tax is proof the coalition Government has come to an end, a Yorkshire MP has said.

Lib Dem MPs have been accused of turning their back on the coalition after they teamed up with Labour yesterday to push through a private members bill aimed at limiting the number of people who can be effected by the cut in housing benefits.

Shipley Conservative Philip Davies said after the Government was defeated in the House of Commons that the Bill “shows that the coalition Government has come to an end and that we will clearly have a free-for-all for the rest of the Parliament.”

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post after the vote, he added: “The Lib Dems are duplicitous cowards and clearly unfit for Government as they run away from their own decisions the moment they get criticism.

“Ministers voting against Government policy is unacceptable and as far as I am concerned this signals the end of the coalition and Conservative ministers should now feel free to bring forward Conservative legislation with which the Lib ems do not agree.”

Social housing tenants judged to have too much living space have had their housing benefit cut since April 1 2013, under a proposal known as the spare room subsidy by the Government, or the bedroom tax by Labour and opponents of the policy.

The spare room subsidy has been a controversial plank of the Government’s welfare reforms and Tory ministers have resisted frequent demands for the rules of the policy to be changed.

The Lib Dem abandoned full support for it earlier this year, insisting it was not working effectively and that changes should be made as a result.

Conservative Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper had earlier warned that the Bill would cost £1 billion if it was made law.

Despite his warning, the Government was defeated by 306 to 231. The Conservatives had put out a three-line-whip insisting members take part, but only 70 turned up for the final vote.

The Bill will now go through to the committee stage, where Labour MPs will try to amend it to completely over turn the benefit changes.

As it stands the Bill is currently focused on increasing the number of exemptions, such as not penalising families when there are no smaller homes available to move into.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: “The Government should scrap the hated bedroom tax following the overwhelming vote by MPs against the cruel tax on bedrooms today.

“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cruel and unfair bedroom tax has hit hundreds of thousands of people across the country causing misery, hardship and forcing families to rely on food banks. If the Government won’t ditch the bedroom tax, then the next Labour government will.”

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “This vote was an important step in reforming spare room subsidy policy to make sure we protect the most vulnerable.

“It is absolutely right we ensure scarce housing is used as efficiently as possible and private and social sector tenants are treated fairly and equally.”

Three Lib Dem MPs backed the Bill - including all ministers except Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was at the Nato summit in Wales.

Only one Tory MP, Angie Bray, voted for the Bill.