Earlier this year the United Nations Human Rights Council ran a critical report on Canada . Among those making the criticisms were representatives from the Governments of Cuba, Iran and North Korea.
Now a left wing politician from Brazil complains that our Government’s housing policy breaches human rights. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, has called on the Government to restore the spare room subsidy.
Miss Rolnik is a former Minister in the Workers Party of Brazil, Parti dos Trabalhadores or PT for short, an extreme left wing political party supportive of the Cuban Communists.
So it is no surprise that her “investigation” of housing policy in the UK was merely a two week agitprop tour of assorted public meetings with her British comrades.
Contrary to the claims she makes the Government’s policy is given more families the chance of adequate housing. The Bedroom Standard measure states that: “A separate bedroom is allowed for each married or cohabiting couple, any other person aged 21 or over, each pair of adolescents aged 10-20 of the same sex, and each pair of children under 10.”
A household is overcrowded if it is one bedroom below this measure. It is defined as “severely overcrowded” if two or more bedrooms this measures.
In my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in April there were 356 families on the council housing register who were in severe overcrowding. That number has already fallen to 330. It is pretty obvious that the fall is linked to the cut being introduced in the spare room subsidy, which is gradually causing some of those under occupying to move downsize and thus vacate larger properties.
Michael Gove recently commented on the advantage of children having space to do their homework in their bedrooms. This was presented as being a criticism of the spare room subsidy cut. It is true there will be some “adolescents aged 10-20 of the same sex” who will have to share rooms as a result of the change who didn’t have to before. But what about those children in severe overcrowding? Where are they supposed to do their homework? The overall impact of the change is that more children have more space that is greatly needed while fewer rooms are left empty.
Certainly more could be done to alleviate the pressure on housing in the UK. One tax cut that would greatly help would be raising the rent a room threshold from the miserably low £4,250 a year. That would free up housing supply. How could the Chancellor finance it? One idea might be to follow the example of other countries and withold some of the membership sub to the United Nations. At £100 million a year, in our case, it is not a trivial sum. If they can afford to send Miss Rolnik and her team of courtiers touring the UK it is evident that the cynical old talking shop has scope to save a bit of money.