Opposing the Bedroom Tax
- 09:52 am, Wed 13th Nov 2013
The full transcript of my speech to the House of Commons during the debate on the abolition of the Bedroom Tax
You can watch a video of the full speech here: http://youtu.be/bPDAtyuj0cA
12th November 2013 - 2.41 pm
Mr David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab): I intend to use the term “bedroom tax” today and not “under-occupancy penalty” or “single room subsidy”. If that offends anyone, I can assure them they will not be anywhere near as offended as thousands of my constituents have been by this repulsive Government attack on disadvantaged and disabled people. The conflict surrounding the description of this despicable act reminds me of Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to force the term “community charge” down the throats of the British people. Not surprisingly, she failed, and history damned it as the poll tax. The same fate awaits the single room subsidy.
The policy itself will also fail because, like the poll tax, it is based on mean-mindedness and political dogma. It will be also rejected by Conservative and Liberal leaderships yet to come, and once it has gone—as it will do after the next election—it will be disowned. Even as Margaret Thatcher was being driven away from Downing street in tears, John Major was planning to ditch the poll tax. He had remembered what Mrs Thatcher had clearly forgotten: that, regardless of how big someone gets for their boots, if they want to win elections and stay in power they should keep in touch with public opinion. They should also bear in mind that our electorate are, I am proud to say, for the most part decent and fair-minded people who know a pig in a poke when they see one. John Major understood that, which is why he went on to win the next election in 1992.
Prime Ministers have their albatrosses, however: John Major’s was the exchange rate mechanism; Margaret Thatcher’s was the poll tax; Tony Blair’s was Iraq; and Jim Callaghan’s was the winter of discontent. The bedroom tax will belong to the present incumbent. As with the ancient mariner, it will hang round his neck in shame.
Dr Coffey (con): The hon. Gentleman might wish to check the recent opinion polls. We would appreciate it if he were more consistent about changing the rules for people on local housing allowance. If they were so bad for private sector rented flats, why is the situation so different for the public sector?
Mr Crausby: I do not think that my political principles have changed, to be perfectly honest. I would have put forward these same arguments prior to the election as well.
On a more serious point, nearly 2,500 people back home in Bolton have been affected, and more than 75% of them have fallen into arrears since April—so much for this being a money-saving measure.
Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): On the difficulty of moving, I have a constituent who has got into arrears because of the bedroom tax. The only way in which she can get out of arrears is to move to a smaller property but, guess what, she cannot move because she is in arrears. Does not this demonstrate the madness of this policy?
Mr Crausby: Absolutely. I will come to that point in a moment.
The fact is that millions of pounds will be lost. That represents much-needed cash that needs to be spent on making living conditions better, not worse. The demand for debt advice and financial service advice is bound to soar, and housing staff will concentrate most of their efforts on chasing rent arrears and helping people to move—when they can, that is. Legal expenses will escalate, and the potential cost of evicting decent families is enormous. This additional expense might not come directly from the Government’s coffers, but it will come from British people’s pockets and, frankly, we have better things to spend it on.
One example of the measure’s inflexibility involves constituents of mine who have two children, a boy and a girl. The girl was nine when they moved in, just before the bedroom tax was implemented. They were not entitled to live in a three-bedroom house until she was 10, when she could no longer be expected to share a room with her brother. As a result, the family were penalised for months until she was 10. The problem with this cruel measure is that it is focused on punishing people, and not on dealing with the problems of under-occupancy.
Under-occupancy is plainly a problem, but the bedroom tax is definitely not the solution. Where is the justice in denying tenants the opportunity to move to smaller, more energy-efficient properties when there are hardly any available—that is certainly the case in my constituency —and at the same time penalising them financially? The sensible solution involves helping people and building affordable homes for rent. It also involves giving tenants an incentive to downsize, not making them suffer because they are poor and in receipt of welfare benefits. Back in Bolton, the Conservative and Liberal councillors actually get it, and they have voted for a council motion to abolish the bedroom tax—then again, maybe they understand what John Major understood when he abolished the poll tax.
The Payday Loans Charter
- 04:43 pm, Fri 1st Nov 2013
Local residents have made their voices heard this year about the problems caused by the payday loan industry.
Action by local people helped to convince Bolton Wanderers to drop QuickQuid as their new sponsor and I was proud to support the Fabulous Finance Fayre in town in September.
I have said many times that I think it is time for this industry to be regulated, and we need to do more to back positive alternatives like credit unions. It is important to keep promoting that idea in order to bring about change.
I was very pleased to see that some of the leading anti-poverty and consumer advice organisations share this opinion and have developed the Charter to Stop the Payday Loan Rip-off. Among others, the Charter is supported by Which?, Citizens Advice, StepChange Debt Charity, Church Action on Poverty, and the Centre for Responsible Credit.
I signed the Charter in support at the launch event in Parliament and you can show your support at change.org/paydayloancharter
The full text of the Charter to Stop the Payday Loan Rip-off reads:
We believe irresponsible payday lending and other high cost credit is damaging the health and wealth of our country. Payday lenders are exploiting millions of people across the UK, trapping them in spirals of debt, and the problem is getting worse.
Payday lenders are breaking promises they made in their own customer charter. Self-regulation has failed. We call for effective regulation of payday lenders and high cost credit, which is properly enforced, to:
Stop them giving loans to people who can’t realistically afford to pay them back
Stop them repeatedly rolling over loans and creating spiralling debt
Stop hidden or excessive charges
Stop them raiding borrowers’ bank accounts without their knowledge and leaving them in hardship
Stop irresponsible advertising and instead provide clear and transparent information
Require lenders to promote free and independent debt advice, and ensure they co-operate with other services to help people get out of debt.
We also want action to support the growth of credit unions and other forms of more responsible lending; we want banks to increase the availability of credit to people on low and middle incomes: and we want new research on capping the total cost of credit undertaken now.