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Under-occupancy Penalty

Volume 558: debated on Wednesday 13 February 2013

2. What estimate he has made of the number of households in Scotland affected by the under-occupancy penalty. (142161)

In its impact assessment, published on 28 June 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions estimates that 80,000 claimants of housing benefit in the social rented sector in Scotland will be affected by the under-occupation measure.

The Minister knows as well as I do that thousands of people in low-income households in Scotland who are going to lose out because of the bedroom tax have no realistic prospect of moving to a smaller house. According to that impact assessment, claimants in Scotland will be disproportionately hit because of the mismatch between the available housing stock and the needs of tenants, so will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to distance himself from the shameful attempt of this Government to stigmatise and penalise people who live in council houses and need help with their rent?

What is shameful is the way that the Scottish National party plays party politics with vulnerable people, pretending that there can be no welfare changes, yet putting forward nothing in their place and not indicating how welfare would be paid for in an independent Scotland.

12. The bedroom tax and other changes to housing benefit mean that millions of pounds will be removed from the Scottish economy and hundreds of jobs will be lost across the country, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute. Can the Minister tell the House what discussions he has had with the Chancellor about how to mitigate these losses to the Scottish economy? (142171)

The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues fail ever to mention the discretionary housing payments fund, which will support people in difficult situations. He and his colleagues should be urging councils in Scotland to make use of that money. Scotland will get a very good share of the £155 million being provided.

Does the Minister not recognise the fact that there are people crying as a result of being given notices right now that tell them that they will have to get out of their house, or lose housing benefit as a result, come 1 April? That is the reality of the situation. Can the Minister not waken up to that fact?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman and others are not working with their local councils and housing associations to draw attention to the availability of the discretionary payments funds and the fact that there will be an opportunity to support the most vulnerable.

As well as the bedroom tax, the Government are preparing to tighten further the worst squeeze on ordinary people’s living standards in decades by cutting most benefits and tax credits by 4% in real terms over the next three years in plans that hurt the poorest 40% in Scotland three and a half times harder than the wealthiest. Does the Minister not accept that, with 800,000 working-age couples and single people in Scotland losing up to £5 a week, those cuts are not just socially brutal, but disastrous for the Scottish economy?

What I accept is that the Labour party put this country into the financial circumstances we found after the 2010 election. It says it wanted to reform welfare. It is quite happy to criticise individual measures, but it comes up with no proposals at all on how to fund them and puts forward no alternative proposals.