Today’s the day the Lords decide whether to defy the Conservative Government and delay – or even kill – plans to cut tax credits and plunge millions of UK families further into poverty.
They will debate no less than five motions on the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates)(Amendment) Regulations 2015 – including two declining to consider the statutory instrument, one declining to accept it and one “motion to regret”.
The Conservative Government has said it regards all four as “fatal motions”.
In politics, a fatal motion means only one thing: the death of a proposed new law, pushed off its legislative mortal coil by the votes of MPs and peers in the division lobbies of Parliament.
And that is the fate that some peers are threatening to inflict on the government’s plans to cut more than four billion pounds of tax credits.
The government wants to introduce the cuts not though the traditional route of a Finance Bill but via so-called secondary legislation. This is how most laws are made – technical changes pushed quickly through Parliament within the framework of existing Acts.
Peers will have several possible options.
They could vote to kill the cuts outright by supporting a so-called “fatal motion” tabled by the Lib Dems. This would simply “decline to approve” the government’s plans.
Or they could vote for a motion tabled by the crossbench peer, Lady Meacher. This would delay the tax credit cuts until the government has taken into account an impact analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies “and considered possible mitigating action”.
Or peers could vote for a Labour motion tabled by Lady Hollis. This would delay the cuts while the government introduced transitional measures to protect claimants affected by the changes.
The Tories say that any motion that does not approve the secondary legislation is a fatal motion.
Labour dispute this analysis.
The officials and clerks in the House of Lords… are rather caught in the middle.
They are clear that all the options open to peers on Monday are legitimate from a constitutional point of view. But they equally admit that all the options would have substantial political consequences.
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