Wales politics

'Bedroom tax' appeal 'flabbergasting' to Labour

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Media captionOwen Smith says a court has ruled the policy 'unlawful and discriminatory'

Labour has called on UK ministers to scrap the so-called bedroom tax rather than appeal against a court ruling.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal found in favour of a domestic violence victim and the family of a disabled teenager.

A woman with a home panic room and the grandparents of a Pembrokeshire boy needing overnight care argued their housing benefit was cut unfairly.

Shadow minister Owen Smith said: "We knew the bedroom tax was cruel, but we now know that it is illegal."

The removal in 2013 of what the UK government calls a "spare room subsidy" cuts benefits for social housing tenants judged to have more rooms than they need.

Conservative ministers said the policy would encourage people to move to smaller properties and potentially save about £480m a year from the housing benefit bill.

At the Court of Appeal, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) argued that it had given councils money to make discretionary payments to people facing hardship because of the policy change.

'Wasting taxpayer money'

On Thursday, Work and Pensions Minister Justin Tomlinson told MPs "we fundamentally disagree with yesterday's Court of Appeal ruling".

He said the court had already given the UK government leave to appeal and confirmed it would be appealing to the Supreme Court.

Image caption Paul Rutherford, who cares for his severely disabled grandson Warren, had claimed the measure was discriminatory

But Mr Smith, his Labour shadow and Pontypridd MP, urged ministers to "immediately exempt the two groups that have been found to have been discriminated against from the bedroom tax - victims of domestic violence and the families of severely disabled children".

Ogmore Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies MP asked the government for a list of Welsh households that would be affected if the appeal judges' decision is upheld.

Mr Tomlinson said he was not sure he could get all that information by the end of the day, but he was happy to see how quickly they could get however much of the information that had been requested.

But Brecon and Radnor Conservative MP Chris Davies said: "Before this reform 820,000 spare rooms were paid for by the taxpayer, not only wasting taxpayer money, but also denying so many other people a roof over their head."

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