A Tory welfare minister sparked disbelief after suggesting families hit by the government’s controversial benefits cap could alleviate the strain by taking in a lodger.
In 2016, household benefits were capped at £20,000 – or £23,000 in London – in a bid to encourage more people into work. However, campaigners claim the move has left families battling mounting debt and pushed children further into poverty.
But when asked about the “suffering” the policy has caused those not in work by members of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, junior minister Justin Tomlinson said there were a range of things families could do.
“Of those, some will have made other changes, including on their housing costs, whether that is moving or renegotiating what their rental housing costs are,” he told MPs on Wednesday.
“Or they could have, for example, taken in a lodger.”
But the North Swindon MP’s suggestion was quickly rebuffed by Labour’s Ruth George, who hit back: “Take in a lodger? These are large families, they’ve often got three children in one bedroom.
“How are they going to take in a lodger? Just look at reality here.”
The Tory minister was later asked by committee chair Frank Field about potential plans to raise the benefits cap amid rising rents.
“There isn’t any work at the moment that I’m aware of that’s looking to change that cap,” Tomlinson replied.