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Shapps blasts UN aide's tax report
Tory chairman Grant Shapps has lashed out at a United Nations official who called for the Government's so-called "bedroom tax" to be abolished.
Mr Shapps said he had written to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon demanding an apology and explanation for "disgraceful" comments by Raquel Rolnik. He insisted the UN investigator had not been invited to Britain by ministers and was biased.
"She has clearly come over with an agenda," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with Government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible, to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring, and even to fail to refer to the policy properly throughout the report.
"That is why I am writing to the secretary general today to ask for an apology and an investigation as to how this came about."
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Ms Rolnik said she had been alarmed by anecdotal evidence during her factfinding visit to Britain.
Using the term coined by critics of the measure, rather than the Government's preferred "spare room subsidy" tag, she said: "My immediate recommendation is that the bedroom tax is abolished.
"I was very shocked to hear how many people feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why - being so vulnerable - they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis."
Under the Government's welfare reform, social tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need have had their housing benefit reduced since April. Ministers say private sector renters do not get spare rooms free, and argue the change will save around £500 million annually.
However, it has sparked protests across the country with opponents claiming it is forcing families into poverty and will increase the benefit bill by pushing people into the private sector.
Ms Rolnik's unprecedented visit has taken in trips to London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Manchester where she has spoken to people on housing estates and at food banks. She told the Guardian some tenants were contemplating suicide due to the changes, adding that the bedroom tax could constitute a breach of human rights laws.