David Cameron has moved swiftly to exact revenge on the Upper House following twin defeats in the Lords on Monday evening that delayed George Osborne's flagship welfare reforms. Following the loss, which upended the government's planned cuts to tax credits, the prime minister promised a “rapid review” to prevent peers blocking fiscal policy in the future.
On Tuesday, a Number 10 spokesperson said: “The Government is setting up a review to examine how to protect the ability of elected Governments to secure their business in Parliament. The review would consider in particular how to secure the decisive role of the elected House of Commons in relation to (i) its primacy on financial matters; and (ii) secondary legislation. The review will be led by Lord Strathclyde, supported by a small panel of experts.”
In response, the Shadow Leader of the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, lambasted the review as "an attempt to bully Lords."
“This is a massive over-reaction from a Prime Minister that clearly resents any challenge or meaningful scrutiny," she said. "The House of Lords rejected George Osborne’s tax credit cuts and said he should think again. If this is a further attempt to try to bully Lords, the government underestimates how seriously Peers of all parties and none take their constitutional responsibilities.”
“We would welcome a serious review of the House and have already called for a constitutional convention," she added."But any review should be in the public interest and not for narrow partisan benefit.”
After the defeat the chancellor said he would delay the policy until he comes up with a way of “compensating” workers affected by the cuts for at least three years. "I said I would listen to the concerns being raised and that is precisely what I will do,” said Osborne. "We can achieve the same goal of reforming these tax credits, securing the money we need to ensure our economy is safe, and at the same time helping in the transition to these changes and I will set out how we achieve that at the Autumn Statement."
On Tuesday it was revealed that families likely to be hit by the tax credits cuts will not be informed of their plight for a month. Following the Treasury's climbdown, Downing Street said letters telling three million people they face losing the benefit may not be sent in December or implemented in April as planned.