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Housing Benefit

Volume 575: debated on Wednesday 5 February 2014

In recent months, I have met every local authority in Scotland, and most of them twice, as part of an ongoing dialogue with local authorities and other stakeholders in Scotland on what the impact of welfare reforms and the challenges of implementation have been for them, their services and their tenants.

The Minister will therefore know that 80% of the households in Scotland affected by the bedroom tax are the home of someone with a disability. He knows that there is a mismatch between the available housing stock and the needs of tenants, and he knows that Scottish MPs, including Government Back Benchers, voted overwhelmingly against this policy. Will the Government now lift the legal restrictions on discretionary housing payments to allow the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact of this nonsense of a policy?

What I do know is that the hon. Lady has a brass neck. She is a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, but fails to take up her place. This issue was debated in detail yesterday and if she had been present she would know that the Scottish Government already have the powers to take measures if they genuinely believe there are concerns with welfare policies.

I am pleased that the Government listened when I pointed out the problems that withdrawal of the spare room subsidy, also known as the bedroom tax, would cause for tenants on islands and in remote parts of the mainland. I am delighted that the Government have given more than £400,000 to Argyll and Bute council to help affected tenants, and I hope that that generous allocation will continue in future years.

I commend the hon. Gentleman for pointing out the specific issues raised in island communities and by rurality generally, and that is why the Government have provided additional discretionary housing payments for rural areas.