Farron name checks Liberal Democrat PPCs Julie Pörksen and Vikki Slade in Commons Bedroom Tax speech

"Frozen Poetry" - Houses of Parliament, LondonDuring the debate on Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill yesterday, Tim Farron name-checked the two Liberal Democrat candidates whose motion on the Bedroom Tax was passed with just one vote against at Party Conference last year.  Julie Pörksen, PPC for Berwick and Vikki Slade, PPC for Mid Poole and Dorset North, argued strongly for the sort of reform to the policy that has now appeared in Andrew’s Bill.

Here’s what Tim had to say:

I am proud of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives for bringing this Bill forward, and I am proud of my party for pushing us all collectively to reflect on the proposals before us today. I would like to mention Vikki Slade and Julie Pörksen, who proposed at our conference a year ago that we look again at this policy. Frankly, Members of all parties would do well to admit that, on reflection, things could have been done better. Given that we were put in this economic crisis in the first place, it would be lovely to see from Opposition Members a change of heart and an admission that things did not go as well as they could have done.

He then looked at the practical reasons why the Bill should be passed. It should be noted that it’s not all about the Bedroom Tax. It’s also about the wider issue of the lack of housing which drives rents and consequently Housing Benefit up.

 I think of my constituency up in the lakes and the dales in south Cumbria where the average house price is 11 times higher than the average wage. We are losing a quarter of our young people, who move out of the area and never come back because they cannot afford to put down roots. My area is very like my hon. Friend’s and many other colleagues’ here today: how important it is that we make sure our communities remain multigenerational and we keep our talent and do not force our young people into another generation of poverty and housing need.

His conclusion echoed his Beveridge Lecture to the Social Liberal Forum conference in the Summer.

What I want us to see in politics is the ambition that Government can change things. In the face of a critical crisis such as the housing crisis and the lack of supply, it should not be a case of washing our hands and letting the market deliver, or praying that it might; it should be about rolling up our sleeves and making sure it does.

I have three very quick points to make about yesterday’s vote:

Can people just remember that Labour voted with us?

When Danny Alexander announced our new policy on the Bedroom Tax in July, I reckoned that Labour, if they had any sense, would push for a Commons vote on the matter as a parliamentary ploy to embarrass us. It would have got them a few angry headlines but wouldn’t have changed anything . It’s good to see that they have voted with us on a Liberal Democrat inspired Bill which might actually become law and make changes to this appalling measure.

But let’s not be too smug

I don’t want to be in any way triumphalist about Andrew’s Bill. It is doing the right thing. Why on earth we ever allowed the Bedroom Tax to go through in the first place is beyond me. I’m pleased that, when confronted with actual evidence that it was only causing hardship and not encouraging people to move because there were no smaller properties for them to move into. We screwed this up and we are now trying to right that wrong. It’s not a huge achievement. We need to be businesslike and contrite rather than trying to claim it as some sort of a victory.

Where were the SNP?

If a Yes campaigner gets three sentences into their argument without mentioning the Bedroom Tax as an evil of Westminster, it’s a rare event. You would think, then, that all their MPs would have been there keen to get rid of it yesterday. After all, whatever the result of the referendum, this law, if passed, would come in before independence and would affect the £50 million cost in Scotland of mitigating its effects. Errr, no. Only two, Eilidh Whiteford and Mike Weir bothered to show up. I know that it’s not usual for Scottish MPs to be in Westminster on a Friday, but our lot managed to make the effort. I’m sure Scottish voters will notice the gap between what the SNP says and what it does.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Nigel Jones 6th Sep '14 - 3:36pm

    I think your comment Caron about not being smug and being contrite rightly applies to the Parliamentary party, but huge numbers of members were opposed to the ‘bedroom tax’ in the first place. I for one, wrote about it in our local newspaper and in our local ward leaflets we made it clear to people that while we supported ways of helping people to move to more suitable accommodation we local Lib-Dems opposed that particular act.
    I think also it is a highly symbolic turn-around on our part, since it begins the process of reversing our recent image that we as a party are not strongly enough in support of the less well-off in our society. It has been true for much of the last 4 years that although Nick Clegg claimed that we had not lost our identity, much of the public strongly felt that on matters of social justice and inequality we had.

  • Good comment from Nigel Jones.
    Good speech from Tim Farron.
    I even have some sympathy for Danny Alexander who presumably voted against the introduction in the first place when it was considered by The Quad. Indicating that Clegg must have supported Cameron and Osbourne on introducing this hated and fundamentally illiberal piece of saloon bar Tory spite against the poor.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Sep '14 - 9:06am

    Those who paid the Bedroom Tax should have a refund asap. It was a moral issue, that should never have been put forward in the first place

  • This is a good piece on what a complete mess these changes are – http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2014/07/reforming-bad-policy/ – so while the changes are to be welcomed this isn’t the end of the Bedroom Tax and this late stage change of direction from the Lib Dems is hardly enough.

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