THE BLOG
27/10/2015 11:21 GMT | Updated 27/10/2016 06:12 BST

Tax Credit Cut Vote Revealed Power and Potential of Lords

Both Houses of Parliament exist to serve the people of the UK, yet it fell to the unelected peers, rather than the MPs who are directly accountable to their constituents, to stand up for people whose work helps the entire country to operate and succeed.

Today I feel a rare sense of pride in our House of Lords. Much as I have criticised its unelected nature, last night our upper chamber proved its worth as a body that holds ministers to account.

Both Houses of Parliament exist to serve the people of the UK, yet it fell to the unelected peers, rather than the MPs who are directly accountable to their constituents, to stand up for people whose work helps the entire country to operate and succeed.

The government's unthinking, uncaring and economically illiterate cuts to tax credits were claimed to be 'part of a package of measures'. In the face of all the evidence, they said 'other changes' would make up the shortfall forced upon disadvantaged people.

But the figures do not add up. The Institute for Fiscal Studies - the nation's leading independent economic analysis service - advised that this cut would make 3.3million families worse off by £1,300 per year on average.

That's on average: by definition, many families will lose even more.

The IFS also noted that those people would be compensated for only a quarter of this loss by the 'other policies' the government assured us would make up the shortfall. People would have lost out because of this policy.

And these are working people - the people this government claims to be supporting, as it talks about building a system that will 'make work pay'.

This policy would not have made work pay. For millions of people, it would have made work pay less.

It is the Lords' job to protect people in this country from the excesses and recklessness of the Government, to ensure that we all have what we need to build a decent life.

That responsibility - to protect and serve the people of this country - is why I voted against the government's plans.

We peers were well within our rights to stop these cuts. They were rushed through the Commons, to try to avoid debate, as part of the Welfare Bill.

The two motions we passed were symbiotic, imposing conditions of time - a delay of three years - and compulsory actions like consultation.

The upper chamber is there to hold the government to account, and the idea that there is a 'constitutional crisis' every time we challenge ministers to consider the impact of their policies on the people they represent reveals the urgent need to reform the Lords.

Unhappy at being forced to make these considerations, it appears our government wants to play judge and jury even on policies that weren't in its manifesto. Their talk of a 'rapid review' of the powers of the House of Lords suggests the Lords could have its teeth ripped out.

But it is encouraging that reform may now be on the table. George Osborne has confirmed today his commitment to an elected upper chamber - joining Greens, Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid and the SNP in calling for reform.

The government could act now to create a reformed House of Lords with members elected under proportional representation, so that the 63% of voters who did not back the Tories at the general election could have their voices heard. The one million Green voters and the four million Ukip voters who are represented in the Commons by just two MPs would finally have a fair say in how their country is run. A House of Lords like that would really be something to be proud of.