Bute’s Westminster MP Alan Reid has responded to criticism of his decision to vote against a call for abolition of the ‘bedroom tax’ in the House of Commons this week.
Mr Reid accused his opponents of “pre-election mischief making” after he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues refused to support a Labour motion calling for the controversial tax to be scrapped with immediate effect.
The motion was defeated by 298 votes to 266.
Mr Reid issued a detailed response to constituents who criticised his decision to vote against the motion: here we reproduce that response in full.
“There was no motion tabled to abolish the bedroom tax. The motion tabled by the Labour party was an expression of opinion and, even if carried, would have had no effect. This was not an opportunity to get rid of the tax, merely an opportunity to express opinion.
“The Labour party moved a motion expressing their opinion that the bedroom tax should be abolished for tenants of social landlords, but not for tenants in the private sector. The Labour Government introduced the bedroom tax for tenants in the private sector and still support its continuation in the private sector.
“I disagree with this discrimination against private sector tenants.
“I voted against the legislation which extended the bedroom tax to social rented tenants. In the debate before that vote, I made it clear that I was not against the bedroom tax in principle, but wanted far more exemptions in place than were included in the legislation. The most important exemption that I wanted to see was that nobody should have to pay the bedroom tax unless they had been given a suitable offer of a smaller property in the same locality.
“There is a housing shortage and it would not be right for people of working age to be getting housing benefit for spare rooms they do not need if they have turned down an offer of a move to a smaller property in the same locality. That only penalises people living in overcrowded accommodation who are on the waiting list for a larger property.
“During the debate on the legislation I also argued for exemptions for rural areas because of the difficulty of finding suitable smaller accommodation in small villages. Following my campaign, the UK and Scottish Governments both gave additional money to Argyll & Bute Council to pay the bedroom tax on behalf of affected tenants. The money given was more than enough to pay the bedroom tax on behalf of every affected tenant in social rented housing in Argyll & Bute. So I can legitimately claim to have abolished the bedroom tax last year for tenants of social rented accommodation in my constituency.
“I also argued for the bedroom tax to be devolved to the Scottish Government and Parliament. I was pleased when this was done last month. It is now up to the Scottish Government and Parliament to decide the future of the bedroom tax in Scotland.
“Earlier this year, following a review of the bedroom tax the Liberal Democrats decided to change our policy. This change in policy was included in the amendment that I voted for on Wednesday, and reads,
“notes that, following the interim evaluation of the policy, the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister has proposed reforms to introduce other formal exemptions to the policy, including where claimants have not been made a reasonable alternative offer of accommodation”.
“This is what I have been arguing for from the beginning and am pleased that my party now agrees with me.”