Commons vs Lords! Tax credit cuts – the basics:

Osbourne’s plan to cut tax credits for the lowly paid has been the government’s most controversial legislation to date. Critics say it will cut up to £1,300 per year for the lowest paid workers in the UK. The government say cuts are offset by the raise in the minimum wage to £9 per hour, however this isn’t to be realised until towards the end of this parliament (2020).

This is highly useful for AS scholars come an essay/exam. Topics this is relevant for include: Parliament, the Constitution, the Executive (PM &  Cabinet powers).

Although the government won a vote in the Commons last week (Oct) to continue with this bill, it next faced four votes in the Lords (26th Oct), where it has no majority.

Vote 1* – a ‘Fatal Motion’ vote. Tabled by the Liberal Dems, which would cut the bill altogether.

Vote 2* – Tabled by Cross bencher Molly Meacher seeks to delay the cuts subject to the government revising the bill.

Vote 3* – Tabled by Labour peer, Patricia Hollis, this vote could delay the governments tax cut plans for up to three years, whilst the government is forced to implement compensate low paid workers.

Vote 4* – A ‘Motion of Regret’. Tabled by the Bishop of Portsmouth, this doesn’t seek to stop the bill, but seek to encourage the government to revise aspects of the bill.

The government say they have the mandate to do these cuts based upon last May’s election result; whereas the Lords have no mandate to stop government legislation. This is the essence of the Parliament Act 1911. Since then no Lords vote has sought to go against a government’s budget.

The government are saying this issue is a constitutional crisis as the Lords are seeking to stop government tax legislation, whereas those in the Commons and Lords who are against these cuts say this is not a non-elected house voting against an elected governments budget, but a piece of controversial legislation that will affect thousands of the country’s poorest workers.

This constitutional crisis argument may yet have one unintended victim – HM the Queen! The government have already suggested they may flood the Lords with 100 new Tory peers to guarantee them a majority in both houses, which would be uncomfortable for the Queen who will have to approve these new partisan peers (The last time this happened in 1909 was when Asquith’s Liberal government threatened to do a similar thing to the Lords over the Peoples Budget – on that occasion King George V said okay, but only after a general election – Now that’s what you call a real Constitutional crisis!).

*Results of the Lords votes (26th October 2015):

  1. The ‘Fatal Motion’ was defeated.
  2. The government lost this vote – 307 to 277 votes.
  3. Another defeat for the government. Labour’s motion passed by 289 to 272.
  4. Given the second, but especially the third, votes, this ‘Motion of Regret’ is now immaterial.

…Wow this is a corker! So keep your eyes on it. No AS politics scholar should let this one pass without understanding and being able to apply it to the course. … Fascinating!