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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The first broken promise - Tories face defeat on tax credits after Lib Dem peers instructed to oppose cuts

Whilst people's focus has understandably been on the number of Tory MPs whose seats may be at risk if those facing cuts in their tax credits were to change their vote en bloc, there is still a long way to go before we get to that point.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has highlighted how the proposed cuts will hit hard-working families who rely on these credits to top up their earned income. They point out that the chancellor is "hitting rather harder some of those that are in work, thereby reducing work incentives and, of course, hitting what he might call ‘hardworking families’.”

The IFS have calculated that only around a quarter of money taken from families through tax credit cuts will be returned by the new National Living Wage.

Tim Farron has instructed Liberal Democrats peers to try to defeat these proposals in the House of Lords. As a result a government defeat has become more likely. Lib Dem peers have been told to support a motion of regret, tabled by Lord Kirkwood which will amount to a request for the government to reconsider its plans. This means that ministers will have to restart the process in the Commons via a new statutory instrument.

Farron's reason for using the Lords in this way is very sound. The Guardian explains:

Some opposition peers are anxious they may be over-reaching their constitutional powers by challenging a main part of the government’s financial programme.

Opposition peers recognise that they can defeat the government repeatedly and almost at will as long as Lib Dem peers unite with Labour and a few crossbenchers to defeat the Tories.

By custom and practice, the peers do not challenge financial measures, but Farron has been arguing that the specific tax credits measure was not in the Conservative party manifesto and was even specifically denied by David Cameron in a leaders’ TV election debate, after the Guardian revealed a document leaked by the Lib Dems showing that the government had been considering cuts to tax credits.

Farron also believes that Lib Dem peers are free to throw aside constitutional conventions since the government has set its face against reform of the Lords.

This is a major U-turn by David Cameron and one for which he has no mandate. It is absolutely right to work to defeat it in the House of Lords.
It's something like the fifth broken promise, isn't it? The second big one, anyway, after Cameron's personal pledge to cut immigration.

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