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Plymouth MP brands cuts to Armed Forces' benefits 'evil'

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

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A benefits cut that could hit the pockets of thousands of frontline troops has been blasted by a city MP.

Alison Seabeck branded Government moves to slash housing benefits as “evil”.

The shadow defence minister and Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View was speaking amid fears welfare reforms will hit almost 100,000 Armed Forces personnel.

The Coalition Government wants to crack down on council and housing association tenants who leave bedrooms unoccupied.

Dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’, those who leave their room empty for more than 13 weeks will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit.

If two rooms in the same property are left vacant for the same period, the claimant would be stripped of 25 per cent of the benefit.

But opposition MPs say the tax will unfairly hit service personnel – and particularly families where, for example, two siblings may be called up to fight in Afghanistan.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: “Service families and parents or partners of soldiers or reservists could be hit because their loved ones defend our country.

“If you choose to serve you should be rewarded, not penalised.”

Ms Seabeck said trainees would also face losing the cash under rules she said had “not been properly thought through”.

Having heard from worried mothers of service personnel, she had unsuccessfully attempted to raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, in the House of Commons before members rose for the Christmas break.

Ms Seabeck told The Herald: “I’ve had two constituents write to me, both mothers.

“One has two children who are serving in the Armed Forces and she is really worried that she is going to be hit by this.

“And she’s right to be worried, because she will be.

“The rules have not been properly thought through. They seem to be incredibly narrow.

“It’s a pretty evil tax anyway, but when you’re talking about service personnel it’s even worse.

“The Government wants to encourage more people to become reservists – and they’re certainly not going to be encouraged looking at this.”

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