Bedroom Tax Debate: Emily Thornberry MP highlights a glaring inconsistency

Why are pensioners exempt from this policy while disabled people are not?

The misery and injustice of the bedroom tax has been well documented, as has the fact that there simply aren’t enough smaller properties to accommodate those deemed to have a ‘spare bedroom’.

But what hasn’t received adequate coverage so far is that pensioners are exempt from this policy while disabled people – who make up two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax – are not.

This is a strange exemption given that one of the stated aims of the bedroom tax is to free up larger ‘under-occupied’ properties in order to reduce overcrowding. As Labour MP Emily Thornberry pointed out in today’s Opposition Day Debate, older people often inhabit houses with unoccupied bedrooms.

She put the following question to the pensions minister Steve Webb, who is filling in for Iain Duncan Smith:

‘The honourable gentleman began his contribution this afternoon by talking about overcrowding…part of the problem is ‘empty nesters’, elderly people whose families have grown up. If the principle behind this bedroom tax is…to move people on to smaller units, why does it not apply to pensioners?’

Far from saying that the bedroom tax should be extended to pensioners, Thornberry was exposing a further injustice in this wretched policy.

What reason can the government possibly give for excluding older people which does not also apply to disabled people? That older people are more likely to vote Conservative, perhaps?

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