By Mark Wallace
Follow Mark on Twitter.
Following the remarkable and scandalous decision of the UN's rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, to attack the Government's welfare reforms yesterday, there was considerable outrage.
She has used taxpayers' money to launch a politicised attack on a legal, domestic policy of democratically elected government. Worse, her conclusions are apparently based on anecdotal and deeply biased evidence, rather than any representative or academic study.
For that matter, she seems to think it appropriate to be grandstanding in Britain rather than focusing on more pressing (and more UN-relevant) matters of housing – like the fact that refugee camps for those fleeing the Syrian civil war are now full, leaving large numbers of people without even the most basic shelter, for example.
Grant Shapps has written in protest to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, demanding an immediate investigation. Here is the full text of his letter:
I am writing to request an investigation be carried out into the actions of UN Special Rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik.
Ms Rolnik came to Britain to complete a report into adequate housing. She concluded the Government's action to end the Spare Room Subsidy should be reversed.
The United Kingdom's legal system has already ruled that the abolition of the Spare Room Subsidy is lawful. I am therefore extremely surprised and disappointed to learn that the UN has directly contradicted the decisions of our courts.
Furthermore, I believe that the Special Rapporteur's report has been influenced by political bias and suggest that the UN withdraw her claims pending a full investigation .
Ms. Rolnik's investigations lasted for less than 12 days. In the course of this investigation, not once did Ms Rolnik request a meeting with the Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, or anyone within the Department for Work and Pensions, to discuss the policy – nor did she request any detailed policy analysis from the Department.
An official from DWP sat in on one hour long meeting at the Department for Communities and Local Government, where the Spare Room Subsidy was one of several items on a longer agenda. However, no further information was requested by Ms Rolnik.
The full report is not due to be published until March 2014 – yet Ms Rolnik has already reached her conclusion and declared as much in her press release.
Ms Rolnik has also already completed interviews with parts of the UK's press, including the Guardian and Independent newspapers.
The Rapporteur also took time out while visiting Scotland to take part in an interview and photo opportunity with the Daily Record, a paper which has actively campaigned against ending the Spare Room Subsidy, and accepted "a dossier compiled by the Daily Record featuring stories we have published illustrating the effect" of the measure in Scotland.
Ms Rolnik never refers to the money the Government has put into Discretionary Housing Payments. Nor does she reference at all the fact that councils have been given this money in order to try and keep those who genuinely need their spare room in their house.
Ms Rolnik never references the 250,000 families in this country living in overcrowded accommodation. Nor does she suggest what should be done about the families living in these cramped conditions.
By referring to the policy as the 'bedroom tax' and posing for photos receiving 'dossiers' from those opposed to ending the Spare Room Subsidy, I believe that Ms Rolnik has shown political bias. We would have hoped that Ms Rolnik would have taken the necessary steps to ensure her report was based on all the information available to her from the Government before she declared her conclusion less than two weeks after her 'mission' began.
I would like to request that a full investigation is conducted by the United Nations, including the provision of answers to the following questions:
i. What was the detailed process leading to the commissioning of this report?
ii. Were representations received from the British Labour Party, and from groups actively campaigning against the introduction of this policy?
iii. How did Ms Rolnik determine which organisations to consult as part of her data gathering?
iv. Why did the report's author decide not to visit the responsible Department or Minister?
Can you confirm that Ms Rolnik is the person featured in this Stop the Tax video, prior to being commissioned to produce this report?
I look forward to your response.
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Minister without Portfolio"