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Iain Duncan Smith forced into bedroom tax u-turn

"This is not a climbdown", a tetchy Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith snarled at a news reporter, shortly after his department had made a humiliating climbdown over its bedroom tax proposals.

The plan is an attempt to claw back some housing beneft payments. The new regulations will mean that people living in social housing will have their housing benefit docked by 14% if they have one spare room and by 25% if they have two or more spare rooms. The proposals have sparked a major outcry.

Immediate protests meant that Duncan Smith had to waive the tax for parents of severely disabled children. He has now said that it will not apply to carers of foster children and to members of the Armed Forces who keep a room while serving their country.

The U-turns have not placated campaigners who point out that, while severely disabled children are now exempt, the same does not apply to severely disabled adults. There are likely to be court challenges to the rulings unless the policy is rethought.

Duncan Smith, one of a cadre of right-wing members of David Cameron’s Cabinet, insisted that the policy made sense. "The last government saw far too many people living in accommodation which they did not fully occupy and in the meantime there were millions of people who suffered because they were on waiting lists or they live in overcrowded accommodation. It’s a very good policy, the public knows it’s a good policy. This is absolutely right." Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne unsurprisingly disagreed. "David Cameron’s Bedroom Tax has descended into total chaos," he said. "This announcement doesn’t bring forward one extra penny for victims of this wretched tax."

In the meantime, the coalition government’s way of passing legislation seems to involve coming up with a viciously unfair policy, waiting for the storm of protest and grudgingly withdrawing some of the harshest clauses, while seeing what they can manage to get away with. It might explain their current dismal showing in the opinion polls.

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