Iain Duncan Smith will attend a conference in Paris instead (Reuters) Reuters

The Work and Pensions Secretary will not attend a planned debate on the UK government's controversial spare room subsidy scheme because he will be in Paris.

Iain Duncan Smith will be unable to appear at the Opposition Day debate - which enables Labour to set the agenda in the House of Commons - since he is attending an international conference in Paris discussing youth unemployment, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Duncan Smith's decision not to discuss the so called "Bedroom Tax", which sees those judged to have a spare room lose around £13.60 ($21.7, €16.2) a week in housing benefit, has sparked outrage.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, slammed the minister for being "out of touch".

"It shows just how out of touch this government is, that Iain Duncan Smith is not bothering to turn up to the Commons to explain why hard-pressed families at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis are being hit with the Bedroom Tax, at the same time as millionaires are getting a tax cut," said Reeves.

She added: "This vote gives MPs a chance to show where they stand and vote to repeal this unjust and unworkable policy. If Tory and Lib Dem MPs vote against repeal, we won't let them forget it - and we'll step up our campaign to elect a Labour government that will."

Reeves also claimed the welfare reform hits 660,000 claimants - culminating in an average loss in payments of £720 a year.

But Ministers argued that private sector renters do not get spare rooms for free and claimed the change will save around £500m annually.

The DWP also stated that independent research shows there is strong public support for reducing under-occupation and overcrowding in social housing.

According to a poll conducted by researcher Ipsos MORI, for instance, a vast majority (78%) of respondents said they thought it was important to tackle the problem.

A number of protesters are planning to travel to Westminster ahead of the debate.