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Beckenham MP says Boris comments were 'wrong'

PUBLISHED: 12:24 03 November 2010

Bob Stewart

Bob Stewart

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AN MP has criticised Boris Johnson for comparing the cuts in housing benefit to social cleansing in Kosovo.

London mayor Boris Johnson is pictured during a conference for "One Young World", the World's largest gathering of Young Leaders, London on February 8, 2010. Young leaders from nearly all 192 nations gathered in London to discuss global issues. AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Beckenham Tory MP Bob Stewart, who earned the nickname Bosnia Bob while serving as a UN commander during the conflict in the 1990s, said that the London Mayor was “wrong” to use the words that he did.

Under the Comprehensive Spending Review the Chancellor George Osborne announced caps to housing benefits of £290 per week for a two-bed property and £400 per week for a four-bedroom house, sparking fears by housing charities that families who cannot afford rent in central London will be forced to cheaper suburbs, like Bromley.

Speaking about Boris’ comments on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Colonel Stewart said: “No he didn’t mean it. There’s a world of difference between people being killed and people having a reduction in their benefit. Those words were wrong.

“There will certainly be population changes but that move is natural. We want to bring down the amount of benefits we pay. I live in Beckenham and its £1,750 per month. I live in a five-bed house for that amount of money and that is what the limit will be.”

In the busy inner London borough of Camden charities estimate that 100 per cent of housing benefit recipients who live in a five-bedroom house or more would be affected by the new rules, which will start coming in from next April.

Mr Johnson attracted widespread criticism for the remarks he made while speaking on Vanessa Feltz’s show on BBC London.

The Mayor said: “We will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch you are not going to see thousands of families being evicted from the place they have put down roots.

Former Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was forced from office by Johnson in 2008, said: “For 30 years under Thatcher and Tony Blair we didn’t build cheap housing for rent. I agree the rents are obscene, by why not cap the rents? We are going to have poor people squeezed out here.”

Bromley council say that they have made no provision for any influx of poorer residents to the borough.

A spokesperson said: “We will be monitoring the situation as the housing benefit cap is phased in next year but at this stage it is not possible to speculate about the impact on the Bromley housing market.”

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