Last night, the House of Lords voted to delay George Osborne’s planned reforms to working tax credits, and in doing so created constitutional dilemmas that Mr Osborne said needed to be “dealt with”. The government has subsequently commissioned an investigation into the function of the Lords in order "to secure the decisive role of the elected Commons in relation to its primacy on financial matters and secondary legislation".
Indeed, in a momentous moment on Monday evening, the unelected upper chamber voted by 307 votes to 277 to delay the £4.4bn package of cuts that would have deprived low-income earners of up to £1,300 a year.
Source: Resolution Foundation
Liberal Democrat and Labour peers united in order to delay the reforms which former Chancellor Lord Lawson claimed could do “a great deal of harm”.
A war of words has subsequently ensued between Osborne and the Lords. The Chancellor claimed that the Upper House acted beyond its constitutional jurisdiction and David Cameron has launched a ‘rapid review’ to see how more defeats can be averted in the future, as the government goes about trimming £12 billion off the welfare budget.
Some Conservative backbenchers, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, even support flooding the Lords (already the second largest law making body in the world) with more Conservative peers in order to get legislation passed. There have been 17 defeats for the government in the Lords since May, and many MPs are getting annoyed at the disruption caused by unelected peers.
In all, few could have predicted in May that a piece of finance legislation would raise so many questions about constitutional reform. It’s even prompted some to ask, for a Prime Minister who rejected an elected second chamber, could the government be about to reform the structure of the Lords entirely?