McVey refuses to apologise after ‘misleading’ MPs on ‘bedroom tax’


theweek120by150The minister for disabled people has refused to apologise for misleading MPs about the impact on disabled people of the controversial “bedroom tax”.

Esther McVey’s comments follow similarly misleading statements on the same subject last week by the prime minister, David Cameron.

Cameron claimed at last week’s prime minister’s questions that “people who need round-the-clock care” would be exempt from the new housing benefit regulations, which come into force on 1 April.

But although disabled people who need a spare room for an overnight paid care worker will be exempt, those who rely on their partners for their support will not.

The new regulations will see housing benefit cut if a working-age individual or family in social housing is judged to have more bedrooms than it needs.

This week, McVey was questioned about the bedroom tax by Anne McGuire, shadow minister for disabled people, who pointed out that Cameron was still insisting that families with disabled children or with family members as carers would be exempt.

McGuire said that although some families with disabled children would be protected, there was not enough in the £30 million “discretionary” fund provided to local authorities by the government to support all those who will need extra funding.

She asked McVey whether Cameron was “pulling the wool over the public’s eyes” and if she was failing in her ministerial duty to tell disabled people the “exact impact” of the government’s policies.

But McVey replied: “In line with the judgment, the prime minister was correct. We have clarified today that they will have the room and they will not need to move.”

McGuire told Disability News Service that McVey’s answer was “as evasive as ever”.

She said: “There is now a systematic denial from the prime minister to the minister for disabled people about the impact of the well-named ‘bedroom tax’ on disabled people, including families with disabled children, and their carers.”

She added: “The government is trying to spin their way out of this by pretending that local discretion will deliver respite from the bedroom tax that disabled people need, when this is simply not the case.”

A spokeswoman for McVey said: “The policy on family carers remains as it was. I think Anne McGuire asked a question that had many different elements.

“Esther answered the first part of it. Oral questions are quite quick. Her answer was correct.”

She said that an MP would have complained if he or she had thought that McVey misled them.

14 March 2013