ALL three Sunderland MPs have backed a move to defeat the Government with a Bill aimed at sweeping new exemptions to the so-called Bedroom Tax.
Labour MPs Sharon Hodgson, Julie Elliott and Bridget Philipson helped force Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill through to a second reading by 306 votes to 231.
The bill includes measures to exclude social housing tenants from the policy until they receive a “reasonable offer” of alternative accommodation with the “correct number of bedrooms”.
An exemption would also apply under the Affordable Homes Bill if a tenant needs an extra room for genuine medical reasons, or if the property has undergone substantial alterations to help them live there.
Washington and Sunderland West MP Mrs Hodgson branded the Government’s penalty for those deemed to have too many bedrooms as “vindictive and incompetent in equal measure”.
Despite having been part of the Government which introduced it, Liberal Democrat MPs joined Labour in voting for the Bill to progress to the next stage of the law-making process.
Mrs Hodgson said: “I’ve had dozens of constituents come to my surgeries, or write to me over the last couple of years, with heart-breaking stories about how much hardship this terrible policy is causing them.
“To make matters worse, it’s not even achieving the positive things the Government said it would, such as saving money or tackling overcrowding.
“The Bedroom Tax has been shown for what it always was – a vindictive attack on the poorest in our communities by ministers who don’t have a clue what kind of impact losing £700 a year can have for some households.
“While this Bill doesn’t go far enough at the moment, now it’s passed this first hurdle, I hope we can use it to right some of the wrongs done to my constituents, ahead of the Bedroom Tax being scrapped altogether by a future Labour government.”
Sunderland Central MP Ms Elliott said: “I’ve spoken to many people in my constituency who have told me they are struggling to cope with the hated bedroom tax, introduced by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in Westminster.
“In the North East alone, nearly 37,000 people have been affected.
“This is a policy that unfairly hits hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities or who are carers, and it threatens to cost more than it saves which is why the next Labour government will abolish it.”