Saturday, 7 December 2013

Margaret savages Labour over Bedroom Tax

Local SNP MSP Margaret Burgess has savaged a Labour ‘List’ MSP who last week attacked the Nationalists over the Bedroom Tax.

Labour’s Margaret McDougall was quoted saying, “It would seem to me that both Kenneth Gibson MSP and Margaret Burgess MSP have demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding how Westminster works.  They claim that the Bedroom Tax could have been scrapped had 47 missing Labour MP’s turned up, this is flat out untrue due to the system of pairing operated in Westminster.”  Mrs McDougall was referring to a recent House of Commons vote on a Labour motion to ‘Abolish the Bedroom Tax’.  With 47 Labour MPs agreeing to be paired with Tory or Lib Dem MPs, it meant the majority of the government parties was sufficient to defeat the motion by just 26 votes.

Margaret McDougall, a former Labour councillor for Kilwinning, also called on the SNP Government to implement a national ‘no evictions’ policy in relation to public sector tenants who get into rent arrears as a result of their Housing Benefit being slashed as a consequence of the Bedroom Tax.  Such a move is backed by a petition lodged with the Scottish Parliament by Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre.  Mr Dailly is a supporter of the Labour Party.

Ironically, given Mrs McDougall’s call for a ‘no evictions’ policy, all SNP-run councils in Scotland have already implemented such an initiative, while two local authorities run by coalitions of British Unionist parties, including Labour, have written to tenants threatening them with eviction because they have accrued rent arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

An angry Margaret Burgess, MSP for the local seat of Cunninghame South, this week told the3towns, “The Labour list MSP needs reminding that the Bedroom Tax is only a small part of the horrific UK Government welfare reforms of her Tory allies.
“Most victims of these disastrous UK Tory-Labour policies would not be helped in any way by the Govan Law Centre petition, and Labour know this full well.  We would still have the horrors of a sanctions regime removing benefits from people for less than sound reasons.  There is also the threatened introduction of Universal Credit and the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with a Personal Independence Payment.  None of these groups would be given any protection whatsoever by the Govan petition.”

Mrs Burgess, also the SNP Government’s Minister for Housing & Welfare, said, “We would have the nonsense that somebody who could pay but refused to pay or to engage with their local council would have an additional protection from eviction, at the same time as someone struggling to cope with other UK benefit changes would not have this protection.

“The reality is that seven out of ten are already protected from the Bedroom Tax by Discretionary Housing Payments, which have been topped-up by the Scottish Government to the maximum allowed by UK law.

“Eviction is always an absolute last resort and people who genuinely can’t pay are protected by the Discretionary Housing Payment and by the pre-action requirements introduced by the SNP Government in 2010.

“Whereas the Scottish Government has used its limited powers in welfare to good effect, Labour has done nothing except cynically pose as a champion of those affected by this outrageous tax.  That’s why their shambles over the House of Commons vote had to be exposed.”

Of Mrs McDougall’s statement of last week, Margaret Burgess said, “This Labour list MSP deliberately misses the point altogether on Labour’s failure to turn up and vote for their own House of Commons motion – or was it simply a stunt and wasn’t meant to pass?

“There is no pairing on issues ‘of great political importance’ according to the House of Commons, but Labour didn’t turn up.  So, clearly, they didn’t think it was important enough.

“The only obvious fighting Labour has done on the Bedroom tax is amongst themselves.  We had the Johann Lamont position, the Anas Sarwar position and eventually the Ed Miliband position – it took Labour months and months to even say they supported getting rid of the Bedroom Tax.  So, we’ll take no lessons on the Bedroom Tax from the Labour list MSP.

“As Labour’s Tory allies pursue UK welfare policies that no independent Scottish Government would even consider, the SNP Scottish Government has made the best of its limited powers to mitigate the worst effects of UK policy.  But rather than constantly soften the blows from the UK, a YES vote next September and an independent government with full powers over welfare will be the best way to end for all time the Bedroom Tax and other UK welfare disasters.”

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