During yesterday’s PMQs, the most vocal Lib Dem rebel MP today made an exceptionally well-stated and compassionate plea for the coalition government to rethink their plans to cut housing benefit.
Bob Russell, who stood to cries of “hear, hear” from those on the benches opposite when John Bercow called his name, voiced his concerns that as a result of the changes, thousands of children could possibly become homeless.
It is certainly a consideration that has to be taken seriously by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their cabinet colleagues.
They may well respond – as the Prime Minister did this afternoon – by saying that the changes are aimed at creating fairness.
But with London Councils claiming that 170,000 Londoners will be hit by the cap, the coalition must ensure that by making the benefit system fairer, they don’t create entirely new problems.
Uprooting children from their friends and schools could be excessively disruptive, and while the Government has announced plans to build more affordable homes, these won’t be available for a number of years.
Proposals that would incorporate a gradual introduction of the cap, allowing rent prices and families to adapt to the new system, would surely be favourable.
Hopefully, with pressure from backbenches led by Russell and Simon Hughes – who has also expressed his concerns over the Governments plans – the potentially disastrous results of this well-meaning policy can be avoided.