Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Lib Dem backbencer calls for re-think on benefit cuts

Liberal Democrat backbencher Bob Russell has called on ministers to re-think plans to cut housing benefit.

In an opposition day debate on the policies on 9 November 2010, the MP for Colchester warned about the effect the proposals could have on child poverty rates.

He said: "With the last government leaving 3.9 million children living below the official poverty line, I think we need to think long and hard as to whether the government's measures are going to make that figure worse.

"According to Shelter in my constituency, the average family are losing about nine pounds a week. For a low-income family that nine pounds has got to compete.

"If the rent is not paid and they lose their home they are in law deemed to be officially homeless. Whatever faults there are in this country, one thing is for sure, the children of this country are not responsible.

"They must not be allowed to lose their homes. But for that family in my constituency to have to find another nine pounds a week on the rent it means nine pounds a week less on food, on clothing, on shoes, on utility bills."

Mr Russell concluded: "I urge the coalition government to think again. They are right to tackle the higher rents, but it has to be done with fairness and at the moment it's being aimed only at the tenants and I'm particularly concerned about the children of these families."

Labour's Clive Betts warned that Sheffield "will become more segregated and more divided" as a consequence of the changes.

The motion for debate, tabled by Labour, suggested that "whilst housing benefit is in need of reform, the government's proposals will mean significant losses for hundreds of thousands of working families and pensioners and risk spending an additional £120m on the cost of providing temporary accommodation".

It also urged ministers not to "penalise those who have been unable to secure employment within 12 months".

But, at the conclusion of the debate, MPs rejected Labour's motion by 319 to 258, a government majority of 61.

Mr Russell voted both Aye and No.

Watch the opening part of the debate here.

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