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bedroom tax provokes stormy scenes in Parliament

Bedroom tax victims swoop on Parliament against evictions

Seething anger at evictions and suicides caused by the Tories' "class-war" bedroom tax provoked stormy scenes in Parliament yesterday.

Labour MPs launched a blistering attack in the Commons, but they themselves faced anger from lobbyists protesting that Labour had failed to fight evictions and attacks on benefits.

Cries of "action not words" greeted Labour shadow ministers when they addressed protesters who had swooped on Parliament from across Britain.

Slippery Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith came under separate attack for avoiding the storm by simply taking off to Paris for a tame conference on the EU youth unemployment crisis.

Mr Duncan Smith hob-nobbed with European leaders, leaving hapless Lib Dem minister Steve Webb to take a Commons battering.

Miners' MP Ian Lavery chaired a tumultuous meeting of lobbyists in a Commons committee room before Labour launched a full-scale Commons debate to demand repeal of the bedroom tax.

"I understand the anger of people in this room," declared Mr Lavery, who denounced millionaire government ministers for conducting class war against the poor and the disabled.

"Keep up the campaign. Keep fighting," Mr Lavery told the lobbyists. "We are fighting and campaigning within the party to change things."

Answering angry shouts that all politicians and parties are the same, the tough battle-hardened miners' MP replied: "Since I was 15, I have spent my life campaigning on behalf of the people and on behalf of trade unionists. That is what I see as my role in this place."

Labour shadow minister for disabled people Kate Green also condemned the "utterly devastating" bedroom tax as part of the government's "class war."

Ms Green said it was an "absolute disgrace" that Mr Duncan Smith had not turned up to debate his "appalling policy."

Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves faced heckling from protesters alleging that she had promised a tougher clampdown on benefits than the Tories.

Lobbyists rose to give a standing ovation to wheelchair protester Robert Punton as he condemned many politicians' statements as "just wind in the air."

He demanded: "Prove it on the streets. Prove it with action, not with words."

Single mother Kim Sparrow protested that the Labour Party had brought in "massive attacks on the welfare state," adding that Labour-controlled Camden council was evicting tenants while claiming there was nothing else it could do.

Ms Reeves pledged that abolition of the "pernicious" bedroom tax would be the first thing she would do as a minister if Labour is elected in 2015.

Labour would cut the social security bill by getting more people into work, she pleaded.

Later, she spoke in the Commons of the many heart-rending stories of hardship and heartache caused by the bedroom tax.

But she added that "tough decisions are needed" to bring the overall benefits bill down.

Wayne David MP, parliamentary aide to Labour leader Ed Miliband, told angry lobbyists: "I understand your frustrations."

He went on: "Do not lose sight of the fact that the people who are in power are on a project, a project to create the kind of society that existed in this country when this place was first built - a Victorian society, based on Victorian values."


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