Government wins backing for housing benefit changes

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MPs have signalled their support for housing benefit reforms despite reducing the government's majority in a vote on the issue.

Labour tabled a motion for an opposition day debate on 12 November 2013, calling on the government to end its under-occupancy penalty immediately. This type of motion is not binding on government but can be used to demonstrate opposition to a policy.

The SNP's Angus Macneil, who represents the Hebridean constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar, said: "When the bedroom tax is seen from an island context it can really be seen for what it is - an attack on the living standards of poorest".

Lib Dem Ian Swales welcomed the discretionary funding made available by the government for those affected, but added: "I think there is still a lot of unfinished business. In particular, I would make a plea for the exemption of disabled adults."

Speaking from the Labour frontbench, Kate Green said the day's debate has shown "why this policy is a moral and practical failure - it is cruel, unworkable and perverse".

But Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey insisted the opposition had failed to provide "one single answer to the problems that were left by the previous Labour government" and to loud jeers: "Just as I'm being shouted out now, the voices of two million people on housing waiting lists have been shouted out."

MPs defeated the opposition motion demanding an end to what Labour calls the "bedroom tax" by 252 to 226, a reduced government majority of 26.

The government's amendment defending its policy was backed by 253 votes to 222, a reduced government majority of 31.

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