Hit wealthy pensioners to help homeless, Tory MP suggests
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
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A Tory backbencher has been slapped down for suggesting the government should take benefits away from the wealthiest pensioners to help the homeless.
Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, told Pensions Minister Steve Webb that "I would support the department (DWP) restricting certain benefits to the wealthiest pensioners if that would enable homeless people to get off the streets and into homes".
Winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and free bus passes are among benefits touted for abolition in the past.
Baker's request looks unlikely to succeed, at least ahead of the 2015 general election.
Webb replied: "I am sure that my hon. Friend would want us to stick to the terms of the coalition agreement, which commits us to protecting pensioner benefits for the lifetime of this parliament.”
But the minister added: "He is right to say that we have to do right by homeless people, and I welcome the fact that the December quarter’s homeless acceptance figures were down by 5% compared with a year earlier. That covers the period in which the change was made, and there are now about 50,000 homeless acceptances a year, which is about half the level that we saw in the early years of the Labour Government.”
Baker made his comments after raising a problem affecting his constituency of High Wycombe. “Wycombe Homeless Connection has stated categorically that the withdrawal of crisis loans has made it much harder for homeless people to get into flats and homes,” Baker said.
Holding a safe Conservative seat, Wycombe MPs have a history of speaking out in the Commons, often to the discomfort of colleagues. During the jingoistic and historic Saturday debate after Argentina had invaded the Falklands, former diplomat Ray Whitney urged calm and negotiation, triggering several disparaging references to "the honourable member for Wycombe".