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Tax credits: Government defeated, peers vote to delay cuts

By Trevor Mason and Shaun Connolly

Published 26/10/2015

Voting was 307 to 277, majority 30, for the amendment put down by independent crossbench peer Baroness Meacher
Voting was 307 to 277, majority 30, for the amendment put down by independent crossbench peer Baroness Meacher

The Government has been defeated in the Lords over its controversial plans to cut tax credits - setting the stage for a constitutional clash with the Commons.

Peers ignored warnings from the Prime Minister and backed a motion delaying the cuts until the Government responds to analysis of their impact by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and considers "mitigating action".

Voting was 307 to 277, majority 30, for the amendment put down by independent crossbench peer Baroness Meacher at the close of a heated and highly charged debate lasting more than three and a half hours.

Earlier, a Liberal Democrat bid to kill off the cuts altogether was heavily defeated by 310 votes to 99, Government majority 211.

The votes came after Lords leader Baroness Stowell of Beeston warned peers not to challenge the "primacy" of the Commons on financial matters.

Lady Stowell said Chancellor George Osborne would listen "very carefully" to concerns about the cuts if the Lords stepped back from rejecting or delaying them.

Minutes later the Government was defeated a second time as peers voted by 289 to 272, majority 17, for a Labour motion to delay the cuts until ministers come forward with "full transitional protection" for those affected for at least three years.

In a huge turnout for the votes, Labour imposed a three-line whip and reported the presence of Tories not seen in the chamber for years. But it was not enough to save the Government from defeat over a policy which has sparked calls for a re-think from Conservative as well as Opposition MPs.

In the Commons, veteran Tory Sir Edward Leigh called for MPs' rights as elected representatives to be protected in the interests of the people of the country.

The former aide to Margaret Thatcher said: "In the other place (the Lords) not two minutes ago their lordships have voted for a Labour amendment to effectively pull up."

After being interrupted by cheers from Labour MPs, he went on: "Not for 100 years has the House of Lords defied this elected House.

"This is a serious matter and I ask for you or the Speaker to give a statement to protect the rights of the elected representatives, not just for us but for the people of this country."

Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle replied: "As you know it does take both Houses to agree and it will be coming before this House and I'm sure it won't be the end of the matter at this stage but you've certainly allowed us to be informed."

Raising a further point of order, Labour's Wes Streeting (Ilford North), said: "The very fact that Sir Edward has raised the point of order in the way that he has only underpins the importance of members of this House, the majority of whom I believe are also opposed to these changes, actually troop through the right voting lobby to make sure there is in fact an alignment of opinion between the two Houses even though the Government whips colluded last week to ensure."

Mr Streeting was then cut off by the Deputy Speaker who said his comments did not constitute a point of order.

Later analysis of the division lists showed that 164 Labour peers combined with 83 Liberal Democrats and 41 crossbenchers to inflict the defeat. Lady Meacher's successful amendment was also backed by three Bishops including the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu.

In the second defeat, 160 Labour peers joined with 81 Lib Dems and 33 crossbenchers to back the Opposition amendment, which was opposed by one Labour peer, former lord chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg.

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