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Saturday, September 06, 2014

The bedroom tax and the coalition

Today's Times speculates that yesterday's vote, in which senior Liberal Democrats joined with opposition MPs to support a private member's bill tabled by Lib Dem MP, Andrew George, could signal the end of the coalition.

Amongst those supporting the bill, which creates exemptions to the removal of the spare-room subsidy, were Vince Cable, the business secretary, and Danny Alexander, the chief secretary. All but three Liberal Democrat MPs backed the bill. Nick Clegg, who is at the NATO  summit in Newport, did not take part in the vote.

The bill, put forward by the Lib Dem MP Andrew George, would ensure that those who could not find a smaller home, or the disabled, would be exempt from the penalty:

After the vote, Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, who backed the benefit changes when they were initially approved by parliament, said that it signalled the end of the coalition.

He told the Commons: “Given that those of us who were against the setting up  of the coalition in the first place always knew that the Lib Dems were devious and untrustworthy, and given that this vote today on the bill shows the coalition government has come to an end.”

Anybody would think that Conservative MPs had a good record in supporting the coalition agreement, House of Lords reform being one instance where they did not.

More interestingly, the fact that this bill has secured a second reading means that a Tory bill on a European referendum will have less time and may not get as far as the last one.

Personally, I do not see why this should be the end of the coalition. It is a disagreement on one aspect of policy in which the Liberal Democrats, having taken stock of the evidence, have decided to modify their stance so as to protect those vulnerable tenants who are being disadvantaged by the scheme because there are insufficient smaller homes to move to. It also exempts the disabled who are also suffering from the policy.

It is something that I have been arguing for a long time, and any evidence-based government would do the same,. At least the Liberal Democrats are prepared to admit where we have got it wrong and seek to change things. Why are the Tories not doing the same.

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