POLITICS

'Bedroom Tax' Defended By Tory Chairman Grant Shapps Because His Children Share Room

31/03/2013 14:43 BST | Updated 31/03/2013 16:18 BST

Millionaire Tory party chairman, Grant Shapps, has defended the so-called "bedroom tax" insisting that even his children share a bedroom.

But it was soon discovered this was through choice rather than necessity as one of the bedrooms of his four-bedroom house is used as a study.

Shapps, who earns £65,738 a year as Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, said the benefit cut was "common-sense reform".

Speaking to Sky News Shapps said: "It is wrong to leave people out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads because the taxpayer is paying for rooms which aren't in use

"People share rooms quite commonly - my boys share a room."

The claim by Shapps, a self-made millionaire who has his own plane, came under immediate scrutiny.

Vincent McAviney, Sky's political producer tweeted:

A raft of benefit changes come into effect this week including the decision to cut benefit for those in social housing with a spare room by 14%.

Housing charity Crisis said the cut will affect around 660,000 households when it comes into effect, with an average loss of £14-a-week.

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The government claim the cut will encourage people to move to smaller properties and ensure social housing is best put to use.

The government's benefit changes have been heavily criticised. Labour claim the tax and benefit changes have left families nearly £900 a year worse off on average.

Thousands of people took to the streets of cities across the UK on Saturday to protest the bedroom tax.

On Sunday four churches joined together to brand the cuts "unjust".

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland have written a report on poverty and sent it to every MP in Westminster.

"Whatever problems the country faced it wasn't (the poor) that caused it and shouldn't be them that pay for it," a Methodist spokesman told the BBC.

Shapps, speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, rejected the criticisms.

He said: "Where were these people jumping up and down as those housing waiting lists doubled under the previous administration?"

"Why weren't we hearing from the churches, why weren't we hearing from these Labour politicians? We have a million spare bedrooms which are not being used and yet we are paying housing benefit to support.

"Wouldn't it be better to put some of those people who are languishing on those record housing waiting lists into homes by freeing up those spare bedrooms?"

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, insisted cutting the welfare bill, which accounts for around a third of all government spending, is a vital part of the coalition's deficit-reduction strategy.

"The reality is that this country is not cutting welfare, it is managing the growth at a lower level," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"Across the UK - contrary to the headlines - all those on benefits will still see cash increases in every year of this Parliament."

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, described the bedroom tax as "bad policy, bad economics and bad politics," adding: "These are huge changes that affect the lives of millions and that you know are just wrong. The bedroom tax is one of these once in a generation decisions that is wrong in every respect.

"It’s bad policy, it’s bad economics, it’s bad for hundreds of thousands of ordinary people whose lives will be made difficult for no benefit – and I think it’s about to become profoundly bad politics. It is incompetent and unfair and should be repealed."