14/02/2012 10:54 GMT | Updated 14/02/2012 11:14 GMT

Welfare Reform Bill Back In The Lords To Consider Financial Privilege Amendments

The House of Lords is packed as peers consider their next response to the long-running saga surrounding the Welfare Reform Bill. Labour are trying to find new ways of inserting amendments to Iain Duncan Smith's flagship legislation, after the govenment overturned previous amendments by the Lords last week.

The government declared "financial privilege" on seven amendments to the Bill last week - using a convention whereby Lords may not debate or vote on financial matters. The declaration was branded "unprecedented" and an "abuse of power", because it only made that declaration when the Bill came into difficulty in the Lords.

Speaking at the start of the debate on Tuesday afternoon the former speaker of the Commons, Baroness Boothroyd, said the Commons had behaved in a "very heavy-handed manner."

"The constitution of our country operates by convention," she told peers. "This is a bicameral parliament, it operates by negotiation. Where were the usual channels during all of this?"

Labour is expected to introduce new amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill on Wednesday afternoon, but these must be substantially different to those already passed a fortnight ago in the Lords.

Those amendments were:

  • To overturn the amount paid to children who are receiving the lower rate of Disability Allowance (DLA). The government wants to cut the total paid out to children receiving the lower rate, because they say payments to children have grown out-of-kilter with those paid to adults

Although the government did agree to several Lords amendments when the Commons considered them last week, these seven amendments were rejected on grounds of financial privilege.

In the first instance the Lords will consider a motion by the government to accept the Commons' reasons for overturning the amendments. This could take a couple of hours.

The House of Commons is in half-term recess so will be unable to react to any further amendments until next week at the earliest. The government is keen to get the legislation passed to it can begin its significant changes to the welfare system, which will take several years.

Ministers are thought to want the Bill passed into law by the 31st of March, the end of the financial year.