Chancellor George Osborne has been left looking red faced as the House of Lords delay his plans to reduce tax credits for another 3 years.
The plans were expected to save £4.4bn but hit the worst off families in Britain. It is argued that this was not clearly outlined in the Tory’s election manifesto. This defeat comes at a time where increasingly more Conservative MPs are becoming dissatisfied with Cameron and his ignorance at how reducing these tax credits could affect their constituents. The Lords had not delayed a financial proposal passed by the Commons for over 100 years. Yet after a lengthy debate, the Lords voted 289 votes to 272 for low-income families to be given “full transitional protection” from the cuts for at least 3 years. It’s important to remember here that the Lords can only delay Bills for a certain amount of time, they cannot reject them fully.
It is usually the case that the House of Lords are seen as out of touch, resisting any kind of change and forward thinking. However, it seems this time they are with the public. A poll by the Independent found that 69% of people wanted to change the plans so that the lowest-income families are protected. Whilst only 17% actually want the cuts to go ahead. Clearly the public and the Lords seem to be on the same side. Baroness Hollis of Heigham, argued that by delaying the bill, peers are “keeping faith with struggling families”. She said: “Those families believed us, they believed us when we all said that work was the best route out of poverty and work will always pay.” More poignantly, however, she also said “they believed the Prime Minister when he promised that tax credits would not be cut.”
Not everybody in the Conservative party are happy about the Lords interference, this has resulted in more politicians and critics calling for a reform of the House of Lords, who are an entirely unelected body. Currently the House of Lords is made up of hereditary peers, senior members of the Church of England and those whose position was given to them by political parties. Some would argue that this undemocratic and that anyone involved in the legislative process of governance should have some kind of legitimacy and accountability through elections.
However, it is also argued that the House of Lords may not be representative of the British population, but they instead represent an array of educated experts who can give informed advice to the Government. As was seen with this policy. If the House of Lords weren’t able to delay the legislation for another 3 years, many low-income families would be facing a very difficult Christmas.
To conclude, this development has left the political sphere on two sides. Those in favour of an unelected body providing checks and balances on an over-powered Government. And those who believe that the public should be in full control of the people who are responsible for the policies that shape the country. However, for now, there are no major plans to reform the House of Lords and those who are unsatisfied with the situation will have to remain unsatisfied for a little while longer.