It is perfectly acceptable for the Lords to block a statutory instrument, according to the latest development in the tax credits saga.
Or it isn’t.
It seems to This Writer that the Conservative Government’s posturing, threatening attitude has got the Lords royally riled, so they’re going to keep pushing, just to see whether Osborne’s got the bottle to go through with this – or if he’ll back down like he usually does.
The rest of us should consider this a lesson in how to treat the Conservatives over the course of the current Parliament; threaten them will disobedience and see how far they’ll push the point before giving in.
David Cameron faces a backlash over welfare in the House of Lords after Labour and Liberal Democrat peers tabled motions to block cuts to tax credits.
In a move the prime minister said overstepped their constitutional right to challenge the central financial decision of the Commons, Lib Dem peers said they had tabled a fatal motion that would require the government to start persuading parliament to endorse £4.4bn tax credits cuts starting next April.
The Labour backbencher Baroness Hollis tabled a motion that withholds endorsement for the cuts until the government produces a scheme that protects all existing tax credit claimants for at least three years. A third motion may also be tabled by cross bencher Baroness Meacher, which may also delay the cuts.
With only 249 Conservative peers in an 808 strong upper house, Cameron faces the real prospect of defeat on one of the votes, as long as the cross benchers, who are inclined to respect the limits of the powers of the Lords, decide not to swing behind the government on a point of constitutional principle.
It is traditionally understood that the unelected peers in the House of Lords should not revise the major financial decisions of the Commons. But Labour claims the measure was not in the Conservative manifesto, and that statutory instrument – the method George Osborne, the chancellor, has chosen to implement the cuts – has been challenged in the past.
Cameron was challenged by Jeremy Corbyn during prime minister’s questions to admit he had broken a solemn promise to voters in the general election that he had no plans to cut tax credits.
The prime minister responded by recalling his promise to cut £12bn from the welfare bill at the election, and said he was “delighted” that the changes had been passed by MPs on Tuesday night. Labour MPs said his use of the word “delight” may come back to haunt him.
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