St Albans MP clarifies stance on ‘bedroom tax’ after comments cause fury

PUBLISHED: 15:52 15 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:53 15 November 2013

Anne Main addressed MPs during Tuesday's debate while Beckenham MP Bob Stewart was caught with his eyes closed

Anne Main addressed MPs during Tuesday's debate while Beckenham MP Bob Stewart was caught with his eyes closed

Archant

St Albans MP Anne Main has insisted she supports the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ after saying it was a myth during a stormy parliamentary debate.

The Conservative MP has sought to clarify her comments made in the House of Commons on Tuesday where she likened the existence of the controversial tax on spare bedrooms to unicorns and fairies.

During the debate, which saw MPs discuss and vote on whether the Government should repeal cuts to housing benefit payments for social housing tenants deemed to have at least one extra room, she said: “Unicorns do not exist, fairies do not exist and, it does not matter how often opposition members say it, a bedroom tax does not exist.

“I found it very interesting when we all looked at our Order Papers yesterday and there it was, we were going to discuss a bedroom tax.

“Funnily enough, however, we are not discussing a bedroom tax because it does not exist and it would be procedurally out of order for us to debate it.”

While a Conservative colleague was seen ‘snoozing’ behind her, another MP, Sandra Osbourne, invited the Tory politician to ask her constituents if the tax exists or if they are “away with the fairies”.

But Mrs Main has since said her words were misinterpreted, adding: “To call a reduction in benefit a tax is just clearly wrong. We must avoid confusion over such an important issue as I have had constituents come to me worried that they are going to be taxed on the number of bedrooms they have.

“In their opposition to the spare room subsidy Labour need to explain why they think it is fair that one group on housing benefit are subject to a different set of rules to another.

“They also need to explain why they think it is fair that social housing tenants with spare bedrooms should be allowed to continue to under-occupy homes that could be used for families suffering from over-crowding.

“I would like to see those people who criticise this policy argue the point with the constituents I have met with who desperately need a bigger home for their families.”

Under the new rules, which came into effect in April, council and housing association tenants considered to have one under-occupied room will have their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent, while those with two or more extra rooms will receive a 25 per cent reduction.

Kerry Pollard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for St Albans, has this week slammed Mrs Main for her “deeply misjudged” remarks.

He said: “MPs had a chance to scrap this self-defeating and destructive policy and they failed. While it continues families will struggle, pressure on housing stock continues, and in all likeliness housing benefit goes up as more people are housed in the private sector.

“It is shameful.”


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