Skip to main content

Housing Benefit

Volume 552: debated on Monday 5 November 2012

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will announce the Government’s expenditure plans in the autumn statement in a few weeks. Until then all discussion about further reform remains, as it always will do, somewhat speculative.

Would not removing entitlement to housing benefit from people aged under 25 increase youth homelessness and youth unemployment?

As I said, we are happy to look at all these proposals. We are discussing them right now, as has been made clear by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by the Chancellor. But it is worth putting a few features in the public domain. The key issue is that young people who are not eligible for benefits do all sorts of things such as sharing flats and working hard. They use much of their expenditure, on low pay sometimes, to get themselves accommodation. What we are looking to do is make sure there is parity—fairness—in the system so that those who are in a slightly different situation do not get an advantage which is not necessary. It is worth telling the hon. Lady something about that group. About 400,000 claimants who are under 25 are receiving around £2 billion a year, and shared accommodation rates extend to under-35s. That is a lot of money and it is worth looking at.

The Department’s own family resources survey shows that only 10% of under-25s live independently. When we take out all the essential exemptions for people who cannot live with family, the number covered would be very small, so why are we talking about a policy that does not add up economically?

As I said previously, we are looking at all this. Anyway, entitlement would never be removed from those who are already on housing benefit. The review is about flow and about re-establishing fairness in a system which many think has become unfair and does not help those who are not eligible for such benefits. I accept that there would be people who would be ineligible. That is the point of examining the system and figuring out how the policy would go, but like all policy reports, it is worth looking at. It deals with an element of unfairness and the thing about the benefits system is that if it is unfair, people who should support it will not support it, such as taxpayers.