IDS says spare bedroom benefit cut 'proving a success'

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Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and his opposite number Liam Byrne have clashed over cuts to housing benefit.

Mr Duncan Smith was asked by the shadow work and pensions secretary whether he thought the decision to cut housing benefit for social housing tenants with spare rooms had been a "runaway success?".

The secretary of state said the policy was proving a success because it was sorting out the social housing "mess" left by the previous Labour government.

Mr Byrne said he was living on a "different planet", during heated exchanges at work and pensions questions on 1 July 2013.

Housing benefit recipients of working age, in social housing with spare bedrooms, had their benefit cut by an average £14 per week from 1 April.

The changes are part of a package of measures aimed at cutting the cost of the welfare budget.

Defending the policy, Mr Duncan Smith said the housing benefit bill doubled in 10 years under Labour, with 250,000 people left in overcrowded accommodation.

He challenged Labour to say whether it would reverse the government's policy if it won the next general election.

Mr Byrne declined to answer but he told the Commons larger houses were lying empty since the cuts were implemented, claiming the policy "costs more than it saves".

The work and pensions secretary countered that Labour "left huge amounts" of empty homes during its times in power.

He said people living in overcrowded accommodation were suffering "while we subsidise to nearly £1bn people to live in houses with spare rooms".

He said if Mr Byrne could not say whether a future Labour government would reverse the policy "then why doesn't he stop moaning about it."

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