Government versus The Lords

  • Professor of Government explains the landmark House of Lords vote to defeat tax credit reforms

Colin Talbot, Professor of Government at The University of Manchester, is available for interview.

He said: "The government has only itself to blame for its House of Lords defeat over tax credits, which it could easily have avoided.

"Normally, major financial changes introduced in a Budget are put through the regular House of Commons mechanisms for ‘supply’ (spending) and finance (tax). As these measures were about tax (credits) they should have simply gone into the Finance Bill which is produced after each Budget.

"If they had, the House of Lords would have had no part of the process."

"Instead, for reasons only they know, the government decided to try and put £4bn of tax changes through as a statutory instrument, or 'secondary legislation’, which is a very unusual procedure. This gave the House of Lords an opening because they have to consider statutory instruments and they can reject them.

"Why? Finance Bills themselves are subject to only very ‘light touch’ consideration by the House of Commons anyway. Why the government chose to avoid even this weak form of scrutiny and opt for the even more cursory statutory instrument route is a mystery; being "too clever by half” is the phrase that springs to mind.

"As for 're-establishing the convention that the Lord’s doesn't interfere with finance issues', which the government now claims to want to do, that is simple: put major finance measures in the Finance Bill and then the House of Lords is excluded. But admitting it is that simple would mean the government admitting they got it wrong."

Read the full blog here.