Labour bedroom tax 'hypocrisy'

LABOUR has been accused of "rank hypocrisy" after 47 of its MPs failed to vote on its key Westminster motion, demanding the so-called bedroom tax be scrapped immediately.

Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, Anas Sarwar, the deputy Scottish Labour leader, Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Jim Murphy, the Shadow International Development Secretary, were among 10 of the party's Scots MPs who did not vote.

Some 21 Liberal Democrats also did not vote, including Scots Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, former party leader Charles Kennedy and fellow backbenchers Alan Reid and Michael Crockart. Some LibDems are believed to have abstained in protest.

Labour had made great play about securing the Commons debate and the vote on a policy which it has staunchly opposed and said it would scrap if it won power in 2015.

During the debate Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, decried the "pernicious effect" on vulnerable and in many cases disabled people of what the UK Government officially terms the spare room subsidy.

At the end of Tuesday night's debate, Labour's motion was lost by just 26 votes. The Herald was told as many as 24 Labour MPs were able to avoid voting by getting paired with a Coalition minister.

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, claimed the absence of so many Labour MPs was a dereliction of duty by the Opposition given that it had for months raised the profile of the issue and boasted it had secured a Commons debate. "This is rank hypocrisy from Labour," he said.

His colleague Eilidh Whiteford, who is the SNP welfare spokeswoman, called on Labour to explain why so many of its MPs were absent.

"Some may have very good reasons for missing the vote but there can be no excuse for a quarter of Scotland's Labour MPs not turning up for a vote to scrap the bedroom tax that could have been won."

She added: "It is now clearer than ever before that only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

Meanwhile, Citizens Advice ­Scotland claims in a report out today that sick and­ disabled Scots are bearing the brunt of the bedroom tax. It says 82,000 households are being hit, forcing people to move home or see their benefits cut if they have a spare bedroom. Eight out of 10 of these people are disabled, the report stresses.

"The bedroom tax in reality is having just the impact many feared it would; it is causing huge distress and pain, principally with people who were already suffering severe hardship," says Margaret Lynch, CAS chief executive.

In a separate development, the Department for Work and Pensions released figures showing 75,662 people in Scotland had seen their benefits reduced following the introduction of "government-reduced subsidies".

The highest area was Glasgow with 13,468 people affected. Others included North Lanarkshire (6384), Fife (5688), Edinburgh (4999). At 103, Orkney had the lowest.

Lord Freud, the Welfare Reform Minister, said having 2.1 million households on the social housing waiting list due to a shortage of suitable properties was unfair and the system had to be changed to help those families who were "crammed into accommodation that was too small".

Last night, a Labour spokesman said: "This desperate smear by the SNP cannot hide the fact that only three LibDem and Tory MPs voted to abolish the bedroom tax immediately. Only a One Nation Labour Government will axe this cruel tax."