David Cameron refuses to back down on housing benefit cap

Under the new policy housing benefit will be limited to £400 a week for a four bedroom house, or £290 for a two bedroom flat.Labour – and some Lib Dem MPs – worry that high rents in London mean the poor will be driven out of more affluent areas. One shadow minister referred to the policy as “sociological cleansing”. Ministers say taxpayers should not have pay for claimants to live in areas like Kensington that are beyond the means of most working people.The Coalition says 21,000 households will be affected, 17,000 of them in London. Labour, claims that’s equal to 200,000 people.Some Conservative MPs in London have also asked ministers to compromise on the plans.In Prime Minister’s Questions, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, asked Mr Cameron if he would compromise on his plans.Mr Cameron responded: “The point everyone in this House has got to consider: are we happy to go on paying housing benefit of £30,000, £40,000, £50,000?”Our constituents working hard to give benefits so people can live in homes they couldn’t even dream of? I don’t think that’s fair.”Heckled by Labour MPs, he went further, saying: “I know you don’t like the answer ‘We’re sticking to our plans’ but we’re sticking to our plans.”

The Prime Minister was warned that there was trouble ahead on housing benefit from within the Coalition, after Bob Russell, a Liberal Democrat backbencher, asked about the “unintended consequences” of the move.Accusing Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband of having “fun and games” over the issue, he went on: “This is not a laughing matter for the thousands of children who could well become homeless.”Mr Russell asked the Prime Minister to think again about the policy, which he said would end up costing taxpayers more money if local authorities were forced to find bed and breakfast accomodation for homeless families.

Mr Cameron said that it was not right for “hard working people” in Mr Russell’s constituency of Colchester or Mr Miliband’s seat of Doncaster to have to fund luxurious properties for those who failed to find employment.”This is an issue of fairness, that we tackle this budget, that we get it under control, and we don’t ask hard working people to pay taxes to help people get homes which they could never afford themselves.”Labour argues that the high rents in London mean the poor will be driven out of the centre.

In the Commons yesterday Chris Bryant, the shadow justice minister, warned an estimated 200,000 people would be forced out of major metropolitan areas as a result of the Government’s “niggardly” proposals on welfare reform. This would turn London into Paris, he said, “with the poor consigned to the outer ring”.Mr Bryant asked: “Would it not be iniquitous if on top of being socially engineered and sociologically cleansed out of London, the poor were also disfranchised by your (Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies) Bill? – Telegraph