14 Liberal Democrat rebels help defeat housing benefit cuts in the House of Lords

Fourteen Liberal Democrat peers, including the former party Chief Whip Archy Kirkwood and the former interim Chief Executive Ben Stoneham, joined a successful rebellion in the House of Lords today. The vote, on part of the Welfare Reform Bill, was over the proposal to cut housing benefit payments from people who have spare bedrooms in their property.

The peers voted to restrict these cuts to people who have two or more spare bedrooms, excluding the controversial category of people with one spare bedroom – which, under the rules as proposed, might in fact not have been that spare. Concerns had also been raised over the transitional arrangements for people who would be hit by the cuts if they did not move soon.

The government lost the vote 258-190.


The Lib Dem rebels were:

  • Eric Avebury
  • Brian Cotter
  • Archy Kirkwood (former Chief Whip in the Commons)
  • Veronica Linklater
  • Ken Macdonald
  • Sue Miller (former Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson)
  • Roger Roberts
  • Ros Scott (former Party President)
  • John Shipley
  • Trevor Smith
  • Matthew Taylor (former chair of the party’s Campaigns and Communications Committee)
  • Celia Thomas
  • Jenny Tonge
  • Geoff Tordoff (former Chief Whip in the Lords)
Ben Stoneham abstained.

Thank you to Mark Valladares for helping with getting the full list from Hansard.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • fabulous. More of this

  • This is excellent – but the government has already indicated that it will overturn this in the Commons. How will Lib Dem MPs vote then?

  • Great news, hope it gives Lib Dem MPs confidence that this is the right move and they stop the Government bringing it back in the Commons.

  • Good news. But, on the other hand LibDem peers voted to reduce benefits for disabled children by 50% two days ago.

    I do wonder, though, how many of these peers own properties and rent them out to people on HB. This is the first time LibDems have voted against anything in the welfare bill. And I’ve yet to hear any LibDems in goverment speaking out about the several suicides some disabled people have committed after being found fit for work by ATOS.

  • Brilliant! We really do need more of this, especially on this bill. Let’s hope to see even more Lib Dem Peers do the right thing on votes on the social fund, the benefit cap and payment to the main carer in a couple.

  • Paul Pettinger 15th Dec '11 - 12:57am

    What a ridiculous thing to rebel on, helping to continue privilege of those with spare rooms, when there are massive social housing waiting lists.

  • Barry George 15th Dec '11 - 1:29am

    Good to read something positive being done by the Lib Dems in the Lords. I just hope that the Lib Dems in Parliament will be brave enough to vote this down otherwise this will be a mere token gesture before the attacks on the poor and vulnerable resume normal service..

    Bravo for now but it is the action of LD MP’s on this and so many other aspects of so called “welfare reform” that disturb me.

    I still have faith in the Lib Dem members of the House of Lords…

  • Good result but there is still much you can do to help ALL disabled people. We can not fight alone. Support Pat’s petition and we will be heard. Pat x

  • Well done….However, instead of ‘yet more legislation aimed at those at the bottom end of society’, why not introduce an amendment ‘taxing ALL houses with two or more surplus bedrooms’ and ensure the money raised is ring fenced to build ‘social housing’.
    Would the Commons, or Lords, countenance such a scheme? Fat chance…

    And, while we’re at it, introduce a bill for Full Council Tax for Second / Third / etc Homes!

    After all, “We’re all in this together”….

  • Good news for landlords who want rents propped up, good news for existing tenants receiving this benefit, bad news for those on waiting lists and private tenants struggling to save up for a deposit in the face of inflated rents.

  • Alistair this cut applied to tenants in social housing, it has no impact on private landlords or private tenants.

  • Paul Pettinger 15th Dec '11 - 11:35am

    If there are such compelling arguments Mark it is a shame that you really didn’t just highlight them…

  • Hoping that Lib Dem peers – and, significantly, Lib Dem MPs when it returns to the Commons – will also rebel on the parts of the Welfare Reform Bill that massively reduce support for disabled people, such as the time limit for cESA and the detail of moving from DLA to PIP. The motion passed at Lib Dem conference give them the mandate to stand up for disabled people when the crunch votes come.

  • Paul Pettinger 15th Dec '11 - 12:40pm

    Here a link to the debate for any one who wants to read it:

    I do understand the issue Mark. This wasn’t the right issue to rebel on. I stand with all those Lib Dem Peers who supported the Govt.

    Perhaps if you had been a Counsellor on an authority responsible for housing, or lived on a council estate in an area with a cryonic shortage of social housing then you might care more for those in desperate need for social housing/ already in social housing but with a desperate need for a larger dwelling, over those who have a spare room.

  • Just when I was soul serching you give me hope, thankyou Lib Dem peers 😉

  • Paul Pettinger 15th Dec '11 - 1:07pm

    I think you are defending privilege over greater human need – we’re not going to agree.

  • whilst the result may be important, it is worth noting that the LibDem peers “JOINED a successful rebellion” rather than “LEAD a successful rebellion”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Dec '11 - 1:44pm

    Mark Valladares

    I am a Parish Councillor, in a village where the only social housing is built with families in mind. Are you saying that, once their children have grown up, they should also be driven out of their community because they are poor?

    Well, the next generation will be driven out anyway if all the homes built with families in mind are occupied by elderly couples. This is a very difficult issue, but when you have a council estate where a large number of the three-bedroom houses are occupied by elderly couples, and a large number of the two-bedroom flats are occupied by families with four children who are told “As you have a roof over your heads and three-bedroom houses hardly ever become available, you will never get one”, something is going wrong. I’m happy to agree the Tory approach to it is crude, but it’s one case where I have some sympathy with their line.

    In the past, when lifetimes were shorter, possessions were fewer, and there were plenty of council homes for the elderly, there was the assumption that council family housing would get freed up not that long after the children left home. Nowadays, only an exceptionally generous philanthropist would return a three-bed family house to the council. If you’ve got an elderly relative in a big council house, you put the money up to let the relative get it under right-to-buy in order to get the huge subsidy in your pockets after that relative death. There are finance people who’ll led you the money to do it, and split the profits, and insurance schemes to help you out if granny unexpectedly
    lives to 100 so the money doesn’t come as soon as expected.

  • LondonLiberal 15th Dec '11 - 2:23pm

    @ jason: “why not introduce an amendment ‘taxing ALL houses with two or more surplus bedrooms’ ”

    A more administratively nightmarish policy would be hard to conceive. How would you define ‘surplus’? What about home offices, relatives who stay, or the need to store spare furniture? what if you want kids in the near future, or have kids who will need to stop sharing soon?

  • @Bea – it is all linked.

  • LondonLiberal….. You don’t seem to have a problem with such an “administratively nightmarish policy” being levied against those in social housing; or was that an oversight? Are LibDems to welcome an even more “Us and Them” country.
    The idea that those unable to afford their own home should be forced into a ’19th century tied cottage system’ should be an anathema to LibDems. All that will happen is that those able to will buy their house and not be subject to this iniquitous farce.
    I am, and have always been, anti “Right to Buy” but the new system ‘supported’ by LibDems is a ‘scam’. Are you aware that, under the new system a ‘council House’, bought by its tenant, becomes a ‘new social house’ on the statistics even though, at least to my mind, a ‘social house’ has been removed?

  • Before we all get carried away over this, I see from the division list that over 30 LD peers voted against the amendment, so the 14 who voted for it by no means represented a LD consensus on the issue.

  • There are several flaws with this argument that the cut will force those elderly residents to downsize and free up larger accommodation for struggling families.

    Firstly it only applies to people of working age, so if elderly people are your concern this is not the tool to tackle them with. In fact it probably makes it less likely that these households will be helped to move as all resources will have to go into getting the single 35 year old out of his two bed flat.

    Secondly, it’s a massive gamble to assume people will move en mass following this. The average cut is £13 or something a week. It’s really not uncommon for private tenants claiming HB to make that kind of shortfall up themselves, often by cutting back on heating/eating. Most people, especially those with a secure tenancy, are deeply attached to their homes and they’re not going to instantly move out because their HB is cut – especially if they don’t see themselves as being on HB in the long-term. As a landlord your priority should be that your business model will have to absorb a large number of people running up a small amount of arrears every week, not the opportunities this will create to move granny into a bungalow.

  • LondonLiberal 16th Dec '11 - 5:04pm

    @ Jason…now that i’ve got past your ‘slight’ overuse of inverted commas i think i now know what you were saying…!

    I didn’t support the policy in question – don’t know where you got the idea that i did – but in any event h/b is not a tax, it is a benefit, so the claimant comes forward and fills out a form in order to get the benefit. the idea that people would do anything similar in order to be taxed is what is so fanciful.

    I work in housing, jason, so know the system well. I have never heard of the proposal to count homes sold under right to buy as new social homes. where did you hear of this? I think you may have the wrong end of the stick somewhere.

    And as far as i know, you are the only person in many deacades to talk about a 19th century tied cottage system of housing.

  • robert sayer 15th Dec '12 - 10:15am

    I would say to Paul Pettinger(and yes I led a LD Council for many years) that the idea that you penalise people with an extra bedroom is nonsense . Why? because those provide opportunities for relations to stay and maintains family links more than one bedroom absolutely should be penalised if failing to accept a smaller reasonable alternative

  • Alex Matthews 15th Dec '12 - 11:28am

    First: They rebelled to stop it applying to those with 1 spare bedroom. That means those who maybe on the grey boarder between spare/not spare will spared from arbitrary decisions, and those who do have many rooms spare will be ‘forced’ to move on. (Whether you agree that is a good thing, or not, is your decision.)

    Second: This housing shortage is the fault of the Tories for selling all their council housing, and Labours for not building any replacements,

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