Bedroom tax vote in balance

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MPs will debate and vote on measures to change the bedroom tax as part of an ‘affordable homes bill’ today.

Liberal Democrat backbencher Andrew George has tabled a private members bill that would exempt people from the bedroom tax if they have not received a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation. It would also exempt disabled people whose home has been adapted.

As Inside Housing went to press on Wednesday, the Liberal Democrats were intending to impose a three-line whip on their MPs requiring them to attend and vote for the bill unless they get permission to be absent from the chief whip.

A source close to the Liberal Democrats said this was ‘unlikely’ to be changed. However, the turnout of their MPs is likely to be affected by the fact the debate is taking place on a Friday - when MPs are usually in their constituencies - and by MPs campaigning in Scotland ahead of the referendum on 18 September.

The party’s chief whip is therefore understood to be likely to grant passes. A Liberal Democrat spokesperson did not confirm whether the party leadership would back the bill.

Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary, said Labour would be backing the bill.

However, the party will not force its MPs to attend the vote by using a three-line whip.

Ms Reeves said: ‘Although most MPs will have commitments in their constituencies, I and other Labour MPs will be present in the House of Commons chamber to support the bill.’

With uncertainty over the government’s position, and an expected low turnout of MPs, it was unclear at the time of going to press what chance the bill has of passing its first hurdle at second reading today.

A government spokesperson said: ‘The coalition government will collectively decide on its approach in due course.’