Garters in a Twist 641


The House of Lords broke no constitutional conventions in referring back Osborne’s vindictive tax credit cuts. The Tories and their media supporters are talking utter garbage on the question. Taking Britain’s appalling “constitution” for what it is, the arcane rules of procedure were not breached.

Ever since David Lloyd George and Herbert Asquith forced, by threat of massive creation of peerages, the 1911 Budget through and with it the start of National Insurance and the demise of the workhouse, there has been a convention that the Lords do not oppose or amend Finance Bills.

But the tax credit cuts were not in a Finance Bill. Osborne instead tried to sneak them through by statutory instrument. This is secondary legislation whereby a Minister signs off laws under powers delegated to him by primary legislation. Secondary legislation gets much less parliamentary time and committee scrutiny. If Osborne had put the tax credit proposals in a Finance Bill, as they certainly should have been – it is Osborne who was breaking parliamentary convention here – rather than sneak them under the table as secondary legislation, the Lords would indeed not have been able to stop them without breaching constitutional convention. Which just goes to show it doesn’t always pay to be a weasel.

Osborne is hoist by his own petard.

Aah, Tories say. But there is another convention that the Lords do not block secondary legislation.

They are making that one up. There is no such constitutional convention and there are plenty of examples of the Lords blocking secondary legislation. There is a huge quantity of secondary legislation, thousands and thousands of laws – ministers continually are signing off legal changes.

But the entire basis of the secondary legislation is that parliament has delegated to ministers, in Acts, powers to sign off uncontroversial matter. This can be, for example, the detail of regulations needed technically to enforce primary legislation, and the occasional updates needed. Only a very low percentage indeed of secondary legislation ever gets queried by the Lords, but that is not because of a constitutional convention. That is because most of it is dull stuff. But when the government abuses its authority and tries to smuggle vital changes through secondary legislation, the Lords not only has the constitutional right to challenge this abuse, it has the constitutional duty to do so.

I wish they would do it more often. For example, when the Labour Party used Westminster secondary legislation to cede 6,000 square miles of Scotland’s sea to England without parliamentary scrutiny.

Finally, there is a constitutional convention that the Lords do not oppose manifesto commitments on which a government has been elected. But the Tories rather carefully did not put tax credit cuts in their manifesto, and indeed in campaigning said they would not do it.

The British constitution is appallingly undemocratic. The fact that an undemocratic chamber has fended off a proposal from an undemocratic executive which gained the votes of only 37% of the voting electors, is not a blow struck for democracy. It is however a temporary victory for human decency in mitigating an attack on the poor.

It is also an achievement for Jeremy Corbyn. Nobody can truly believe that Labour peers would have been organised to do this under Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall.

UPDATE Wings Over Scotland has a very different take on the Labour Party performance. That the Labour Party was not radical enough to go for the “fatal” option I am afraid I find unsurprising. It remains a deeply conservative institution. But I had not previously encountered the argument that 90% would lose the money from universal credit anyway, and it is stunningly cynical. But on close consideration, I cannot work out what it means. Either there must be some additional cut to universal credit, or that those who lost tax credit could have regained it on universal credit anyway. If anybody could explain that one further, I should be grateful.


641 thoughts on “Garters in a Twist

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  • Tony M

    Labour not so bravely abstain.

    http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-abstainers-ride-again/#comments

    “In other words, rather than the cuts having been stopped and the Tories being forced into an incredibly controversial and difficult gerrymandering of the second chamber:

    – Anyone who becomes eligible for tax credits from now on will suffer the cuts immediately, without the three-year “protection”.

    – Anyone already on tax credits will still suffer the cuts, but they’ll pay them through reductions in Universal Credit rather than tax credits.

    – The total final amount of cuts will actually be HIGHER than those planned by the Conservatives.

    We fully expect that spontaneous demonstrations and rallies from low-paid workers cheering Labour’s heroic intervention are breaking out in the streets even as we type this, as the grateful poor celebrate losing more money in a slightly different way to the one originally proposed. […]”

  • BrianFujisan

    I dont Know how to Scream anymore.. i have given hundreds to hard up souls recently….am Skint noo

  • Jives

    Only the 1% who caused our current dystopia will be immune.

    The banksters,politicos,securitat,espiocrats and their media class lackeys…

    Its just gets worse and worse.

    Bastards.

  • Mary

    I have been watching the replay. It seemed that the old Tory warhorses were making interjections purely to disrupt Lady Hollis, Lady Manzoor and Lady Meacher were repellent eg Lords Cormack, Howe and Tebbitt.

    The Bishop of Portsmouth spoke well.

    Silly old Lord Mackay made a blooper.

    ‘…..It has to be noted that this is a matter of the privilege of the elected Chamber, not of the Government. The Motions other than that in the name of the right reverend Primate—

    A noble Lord:
    The right reverend Prelate.

    Lord Mackay of Clashfern:
    I am sorry, the right reverend Prelate…..’

    ~~~~
    The transcript. Pity the Hansard transcibers. Over 4 hours’ worth.
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/lords/todays-lords-debates/read/unknown/135/

    Here is an explanation of the implications of the proposals.

    Tax credit changes: Who will be the winners and losers?
    By Brian Milligan
    Personal Finance reporter
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34572807

  • Mary

    I have been watching the replay. It seemed that the old Tory warhorses were making interjections purely to disrupt Lady Hollis, Lady Manzoor and Lady Meacher were repellent eg Lords Cormack, Howe and Tebbitt.

    s/be

    I have been watching the replay. It seemed that the repellent old Tory warhorses were making interjections purely to disrupt Lady Hollis, Lady Manzoor and Lady Meacher eg Lords Cormack, Howe and Tebbitt.

    and transcribers not transcibers. Duh!

  • Mary

    38 Degrees e-mail

    It was a close run thing. But tonight, despite all George Osborne’s bullying tactics, the House of Lords voted to force delays to the government’s tax credit cuts.

    This doesn’t mean we’ve won – yet. There’s a lot more to do. But it does mean we are starting to win. George Osborne’s attacks on low-paid, working families are now on the rocks. These delays give us more time to build the pressure and get the cuts to tax credits dropped altogether.

    38 Degrees members have done so much to get to this stage:

    250,000 of us signed the petition asking the Lords to do the right thing. Annee, a 38 Degrees member affected by the cuts, and her granddaughter Charlotte, carried the petition into Parliament on behalf of all of us.

    Donations from 38 Degrees members paid for the opinion poll, splashed across front pages of newspapers today, showing that six in 10 British citizens want tax credit cuts stopped – a key argument used in tonight’s debate in Parliament. We’ve built powerful local petitions to every single MP in the UK – backed up by personal messages, tweets, and phone calls telling them to do all they can to reverse these unfair plans.

    Donations from 38 Degrees members have paid for thousands and thousands of leaflets against the tax credit cuts, delivered to voters in the constituencies of wavering Conservative MPs. Powerful testimonies from 38 Degrees members who will be hit personally by the cuts have made headlines in local newspapers across the country.

    We’re stopping George Osborne getting his own way. Tonight’s breakthrough shows that when hundreds of thousands of us come together, we can be a match for even the most powerful and determined of politicians.

    In hope,

    …..

  • BrianFujisan

    Well Said Jives

    i Can’t Speak .. For heart Break… When i think of the 19th …. it was good to be there this year…in the square

  • Tony M

    I understand that for a finale, (Lord) George Ffoukes – The Lanarkshire Lark – diverted their Lardships with his particularly harrowing repertoire of bird impressions, accompanied by Helen Liddell on the spoons. Next week for a special treat, the less shy shire Tories will drag themselves up to the House, to put on their own version of the ‘Kids from Fame’.

    In the Commons that evening it was Bingo night, bingo-caller Bercow was the MC, Osborne scored a single line. The snowball carries forward to next week, with the top prize, a set of Lily of the Valley toiletries still up for grabs.

  • YouKnowMyName

    The eventual ‘Osborne-austerity’ saving of millions of pounds from universal & tax-credit cuts could be used to organise more secret policemen’s balls-(ups) like this one:

    3 years of close surveillance by drone, by 44 MI5 officers ‘Pins’ & 35 PSNI ‘Oscars’, bugs, trackers, helicopters, mapping overlays – remarkably burned through millions of pounds costs

    . . .but was ruined when the defence asked for more information about a surveillance tracker, case abandoned, perhaps presumed crims gone free, lest we should learn more about modern spookery!

    http://www.irishnews.com/news/2015/10/24/news/mi5-surveillance-most-sophisticated-ever-seen–303792/

  • Ba'al Zevul

    If anybody could explain that one further, I should be grateful.

    This may refer to the fact that originally UC was to be rolled out in stages between 2013 and 2017, and (unsurprisingly if IDS was involved) has now been delayed further. Which means that the instant changes proposed by Osborne to TC will not be covered by UC….currently in the majority of cases.

    Thanks for the discussion of the capabilities of the Lords. Scroll back a couple of decades, and we’ll find the Tories giving it welly along the lines of “independent upper chamber essential….scrutiny…traditional brake on excesses of Commons….splendid chaps.” And as to unelected peers interfering with the democratic will of the majority, they were pumping their ejected MP’s and business chums into the Lords as hard as ever they could. The nice thing about the Lords is that, much more often than in the Commons, they are allowed to vote according to their consciences : even the party whips on occasion…

  • fred

    “I wish they would do it more often. For example, when the Labour Party used Westminster secondary legislation to cede 6,000 square miles of Scotland’s sea to England without parliamentary scrutiny.”

    At this point you lose all credibility as a serious political commentator and demonstrate your credentials as a Nationalist propagandist and hate preacher.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Let’s have an elected upper chamber, anyway. Candidates for which are rigorously scrutinised pre-election, and any having any recent political or commercial affiliation rejected. In which there are no Party whips and no sides. The arena to be circular. Time clocks on the entrance, and a minimum time of attendance to qualify for a somewhat reduced allowance. Numbers to be limited to, say five per old county plus quota from C of E and, if you insist, other faiths (but the C of E is still the state faith), election campaigns to be funded equally for all candidates from the public purse. And no bloody silly robes. And much more…

  • Alcyone

    Fred
    27 Oct, 2015 – 9:03 am
    “I wish they would do it more often. For example, when the Labour Party used Westminster secondary legislation to cede 6,000 square miles of Scotland’s sea to England without parliamentary scrutiny.”

    At this point you lose all credibility as a serious political commentator and demonstrate your credentials as a Nationalist propagandist and hate preacher.
    ____________

    Why so, Fred? And, ‘hate preacher’?

    Please expound.

  • Mary

    The government is defeated on tax credits. What now?http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06l504s/newsnight-26102015
    9.30 in Lady Hollis, Rees-Mogg and Tim Montgomerie

    Moggie used to go canvassing with his nanny and he is very well off. Last week, he said that Cameron should appoint another 150 Con peers. YCNMIU. I bet he fancies the ermine.

    Cameron should appoint 150 Tory peers if Lords block tax credit cuts – Rees-Mogg
    David Cameron would be “entitled” to flood the House of Lords with more than 150 Tory appointees if peers block cuts to tax credits, a Tory MP has said.
    https://www.politicshome.com/home-affairs/articles/story/cameron-should-appoint-150-tory-peers-if-lords-block-tax-credit-cuts-%E2%80%93

    Lady Hollis was a PUS in Blair’s DWP. a whip and spokesman on housing, disability and social security.

  • nevermind

    I’m sure that the SNP will one day realise what they have missed out on.
    Now that the debate over 4 billion is over until his next budget speech, how about talking about his refusal to deal with tax havens, the hundreds of billions that have bypassed his ex Goldmann Sachs colleagues at the treasury, since he started his apprenticeship there.

    Why is the BBC not asking Georg how the negotiations are going and when we can expect a reorganisation and back taxes from these hoarders.

    George Osborne and his sidekick Hunt are destroying the NHS by attacking junior doctors, lowering moral at a time when only inertia rules, they are the work horses of the NHS.
    He is attacking 2.7-3 million working people with his demoralising working tax credit cuts.
    And he’s failing to regulate tax havens he himself called ‘morally repugnant’ in 2012, economy destroying sums that are rotting away in tax havens, some 8.5 trillion which are not available for investment and or development.
    He has done his best for daddy by walking out of negotiations and frustrating talks with petty points.

    http://www.channel4.com/news/george-osborne-family-business-6m-deal-with-offshore-firm

    Thanks for that link Brian, how refreshing to see real debate of the facts in a Parliament.

  • nevermind

    Fred if you are for real, a unionist that is, a mere redrawing of boundaries should mean nothing to you. Indeed a unionist Labour party has had this work done, despite the UK apparently being one entity.

    That the redrawing of borders has taken place at all is a recognition that borders exist, that they were redrawn as secondary legislation, on the sly, does not mean anything to you.

    You have no point, just trying to provoke an argument by calling Craig a nationalist. Go find a bridge to hide under.

  • fred

    “That the redrawing of borders has taken place at all…”

    It hasn’t, that’s the point, no borders have been redrawn.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Fred is surrounded by Scots, and feels threatened. The Scots are out of step, not him. There is an obvious solution to this. Then there is Fred’s solution.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Peter Oborne is very far from a comfortable leftie, and here he’s certainly not sparing the Left. But he’s just as bitter about Cameron, and it’s well worth a read:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3290893/PETER-OBORNE-House-Lords-pay-price-arrogant-attack-British-democracy.html

    Almost anything is better than the present system, but I think he’s buying into the democratic vs undemocratic line too strongly. In reality, once the election’s over, neither house is responding to the wishes of the electorate, but to party dogma, idees fixes, and, of course, financial interests.

    It’s likely Camborne have their eyes on a restructuring of the second chamber in their own image, and reinforcing for all time the globalisers’ supremacy in the UK. The TC proposals were yet another trap, intended to facilitate this. Critics of the Lords should be careful to keep this in mind.

  • Ken2

    Thought is was better together. Not race to the bottom. Sea boundaries redrawn.

    Trident now estimated to be £170Billion. Chinese nuclear station £18Billion. White elephant HS2 £70Billion. The Tories are starving the vulnerable.

  • fred

    “Fred is surrounded by Scots, and feels threatened. The Scots are out of step, not him. There is an obvious solution to this.”

    What would that be then?

  • Mark Golding

    The government’s embarrassment is the result of their own mendacity during the election and their indifference to parliamentary convention.

    Grayling is a very good example of just how moronic this government is. Grayling seems to know as little about the constitution as he does about law.

    Furthermore, it is only just and decent if a government that has refused to reform the Lords by turning into an elected house should resisted in some of its more extreme and severe abstractions by their Lordships, who are responsible to the country, not to the government of the day.

    Craig is spot-on, if the legislative had been in the Tory manifesto, and in a finance bill, it is improbable that the Lords would have resisted the measures.

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