Is Labour opposed to the principle of the bedroom tax, or just the way it is being implemented?

A question for Stephen Timms

Labour has been tackling the government over the bedroom tax. Ed Milliband has raised it at Prime Ministers Question Time. He and other MPs have exposed the iniquities of the new legislation. However, comments from the shadow employment minister pose the question as to whether Labour is opposed to it in principle or just the way it has been implemented.

Stephen Timms, speaking on Radio 4 said:

“We have argued for the last two years that it would be fine to apply the penalty where people have refused to take smaller accommodation, but to penalise people when there’s nowhere smaller to move is perverse.”

Timms doesn’t appear to have been paying attention. Councils will not be pressing tenants to move. They don’t have to. They will be put under an economic “incentive”; that is a significant cut in the paltry amount of money they live on. For instance if they are on Job Seekers Allowance they are expected to live on £71 a week. Some tenants with 2 ‘spare’ bedrooms will have to pay way over £20 a week from this paltry sum.

Does Labour really agree with penalising people because their children have left home? Does Labour believe that tenants should be moved about from home to home as their circumstances change?

Take the example of a single mother with two children, living in a 3 bedroom house. She will have to pay for one ‘spare’ room (if the children are the same sex and under 16), or move into a 2 bedroom place. If the 2 children are of different sex, then she will have to move back into a 3 bedroom place when one of them reaches 10. If they are of the same sex she will have to move back into a 3 bedroom property when one of them reaches 16. Then when the first of them leaves home she will have to move back into a 2 bedroom property. So within the space of not many years, from a 3 bed to a 2 bed, back to a 3 bed, and then to a 2 bed, and then when there are no children left, she would have to move to a 1 bed flat. What sense does it make to force 4 moves? Of course, in practical terms it may not happen because of the shortage of homes of the right size.

Is Stephen Timms expressing the official Labour position? The question needs to be clarified. The way to clarify it is to answer this question: is Labour committed to repeal the bedroom tax? Perhaps Mr Timms could give us an answer. I’ve emailed him. Why don’t you?

He can be contacted at


    1. Which ‘largesse’ is that? Would it include the ‘generous’ JSA of £71 a week. Owing to the sort of economy we have it’s ‘ordinary working taxpayers’ who end up on benefits as a result of redundancy, illness or disability? Or do you think they are all ‘scroungers’?


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