Tuesday, 27 October 2015
The Conservative party PR machine tried, for once with only modest success, to divert attention from the nuts and bolts of the consequences of the proposed reduction in tax credits. Instead they tried to focus attention on the constitutional issue of whether or not the Lords had the right to block or defer the changes. There was even talk of a constitutional crisis and, would you believe, the danger of involving the Queen in a political issue.
Happily the Lords ignored them and went right ahead.
However, the PR machine keeps on trying. Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP, son of the late Honourable William, spouts of the possibility of creating 100 extra Troy peers to bring the Lords into line, and David Cameron hints darkly of a "rapid review" of their powers and functions. Well ,of course, he had his chance when his then partners in government, the Liberal Democrats, proposed democratic reform which his party had promised to support, and he bottled it. Cameron is quick to use what he sees as the pejorative term "unelected," but if the second chamber remains "unelected" whose fault is that?
The Conservatives make much of the argument that the Tax Credit proposals have financial implications, and the Lords do not normally interfere with these. However, as explained in the previous post, George Osborne himself failed to include the proposals in his Finance Bill,and instead submitted them in something called as Statutory Instrument, presumably to avoid full scrutiny and debate in the Commons. So serves him right.
Lords defeats and delays are not all that unusual but it is curious that they happen a lot more when there is a Labour government than when the Tories are in power. From 1975 to 1979 (Labour ) there were 240 defeats, an average of 60 a year. From 1979 to 97 (Tory years) there were just two more, 242, but over 18 years that averaged out at only 13 per year. Then in the 13 years of Labour rule from 1997 to 2010 the figure jumped up to 528, an average of 40 a year.*
So the Tories are getting a dose of their own medicine, and, like most bullies, when the tables are turned, they cry "foul."
* Figures derived from http://www.parliament.uk/about/faqs/house-of-lords-faqs/lords-govtdefeats/