Today’s Prime Minister Questions (PMQs) exposed Ed Miliband the leader of her majesty’s official opposition as not knowing about the bedroom tax and he missed a huge once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expose that David Cameron doesn’t know his own bedroom tax policy.
If Ed Miliband knew his bedroom tax brief then the fight against the bedroom tax would have taken a huge step forward, but because he clearly didn’t he let David Cameron off the hook as Cameron misled parliament yet again with more, what must be known lies, about the bedroom tax.
Cameron said that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax and they are not and Ed Miliband through not knowing his brief failed to take him to task over this. Imagine the national news and attention that would have brought!! The Prime Minister, who like Miliband was prepared for the bedroom tax question, did and does not know his own policy, his own ‘stubborn mule’ of a policy that refuses to go away! It would have been headline news and would have severely undermined the bedroom tax policy…yet ignorant Ed missed that golden chance and revealed to 660,000 potential voters that he is incompetent!
EdM prepared a question on the bedroom tax and despite millions of people knowing the disabled are NOT exempt, despite many Labour MPs knowing they are not, despite the entire disability lobby knowing they are not who constantly and rightly lobby the Labour Party, despite God knows how many researchers and activists the Labour Party has who know this, their leader Ed Miliband did not know this!!
Yes Cameron knew a bedroom tax question was coming and prepared too so the Conservative Party researchers and MPs all knew this yet somehow briefed Cameron wrongly, we are used to the Conservatives and their Coalition partners the Lib Dems knowingly lieing about the bedroom tax.
The real villain of the piece is Ed Miliband today
Although it has been said countless times here is the proof from the government’s own official guidance on the bedroom tax called the A4/2012 Housing Benefit circular. Section 10 says:
Rates of reduction
….This change will come into force for all existing and new claimants to Housing Benefit from 1 April 2013. There are no exceptions apart from those listed in paras 46-50.
So what do paras 46-50 say?
Cases not subject to a restriction
(a) Shared Ownership
The size criteria rules will not apply to shared ownership cases. This is where the claimant part owns the property under a shared ownership lease, usually with a housing association. The claimant may well have a mortgage on their share of the property while renting the rest.
(b) Pension Age
The size criteria rules will only apply to claimants of working age. Any claimant over the qualifying age for state pension credit or with a partner over that age will be exempt from the size criteria rules from April 2013.
(c) Non-mainstream accommodation
These rent liabilities include mooring charges for house boats and site charges for caravans and mobile homes as well as various “excluded tenancies”, that are not with a “registered housing association”, within schedule 2 to the Housing Benefit Regulations, such as PRS regulated tenancies.
(d) Temporary accommodation
Any claimant who is accepted as homeless under homelessness legislation of the Housing Act 1996 and placed in temporary accommodation by the local authority, as described in regulation A13(3), because they are homeless or to prevent homelessness.
(e) Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation
The size criteria rules will not be applied to those in supported ‘exempt’ accommodation. This is a particular type of supported accommodation defined for Housing Benefit purposes as accommodation provided by a non-metropolitan county council in England, a housing association, a registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or a person acting on its behalf also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision as set out in paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 to the Consequential Provisions Regulations 2006.
As we can see above the only exemptions at the time of this guidance were (a) to (e) above and you will notice there is no exemption for disabled people mentioned. Yet the coalition did after publishing this guidance add an exemption for a very small number of disabled people and ONLY where they have an overnight carer who is not a family member. 7 national disability charities through Carers UK explain this here in a letter they wrote to the Chancellor on 20th February 2013:
“Whilst we welcomed the provision which exempts disabled people who needed a spare room for someone to stay overnight to look after them, this does not apply to carers who live with the people they care for. For example where one member of a couple has a disability and the couple cannot sleep in the same room. There is also ongoing uncertainty as to whether families will be able to have a separate room for a disabled child.”
So when Cameron said today that the disabled are exempt he was overtly misleading Parliament or in common parlance, did not know what the hell he was talking about! The exemption is a very tiny one indeed and the vast majority of disabled persons affected by the bedroom tax do NOT have an overnight carer such as this.
Moreover do not forget the last sentence of that quote above – “There is also ongoing uncertainty as to whether families will be able to have a separate room for a disabled child” as this is also a factor in the incompetence of Ed Miliband.
It refers to the Burnip case, a court case which allows an extra bedroom for a disabled child in very limited circumstances and far from all, if they need to sleep alone on medical grounds. The government led by…yes David Cameron…is challenging this Appeal Court decision and trying to prevent disabled children having a spare room of their own!! Now imagine if Ed Miliband knew his brief, which he bloody well should, and had asked Cameron if his government erroneously believes that disabled people are exempt, then why the hell are you going to the Supreme Court to try to prevent that!
That would have been an incredibly powerful point and really put the whole veracity and credibility of the bedroom tax policy there for all to see – huge national news and national attention and national awareness raising – Yet Ed Miliband didn’t despite having hundred if not thousands of advisors know his brief!!
That is rank incompetence!
I am far from over-egging the pudding when I say that IF Ed Miliband knew about the bedroom tax THEN if he had taken the opportunities today he could have inflicted critical damage on the bedroom tax policy. He also would have looked very powerful as a leader and been regarded as one who ‘knew his stuff’ – a very critical quality in any MP never mind one who is a party leader and asking the general public to elect him as such!
Chances to put the PM to the sword and expose him as being clueless and not knowing his stuff come along very infrequently and especially at PMQs when both Cameron and Miliband in reality know what questions are to be asked and PREPARE for those questions. When it is such a critical issue, and after all the ‘disabled’ are a deserving group amongst the fair and great British public, Miliband has missed a massive opportunity to rid the country of this hated and pernicious bedroom tax, and even if you want to call it a ‘spare room subsidy’ it is still hated!