‘Outrageous’ suggestion Lords may be suspended over tax credits

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SUGGESTIONS THE Government could suspend the House of Lords in a row over tax credits are “nothing short of outrageous”, a senior Labour peer has warned.

Shadow Lords leader Baroness Smith of Basildon slammed the idea in a debate on Government plans for English votes for English laws (Evel) in the Commons, a proposal which is due before MPs tomorrow.

She said the two issues were indicative of a Government which preferred to avoid scrutiny.

Baroness Smith’s remarks come amid growing tension between the Government and the unelected House of Lords, where the Tories do not have a majority and are frequently defeated.

So-called “fatal” motions, which could wreck controversial plans to slash tax credits, are due before peers on Monday.

Earlier ministers accused Labour of breaching the Salisbury Convention - that the Lords should not block manifesto promises - by forcing through an amendment to the Energy Bill removing plans to end on-shore wind subsidies a year early.

Baroness Smith said: “The whole (Evel) saga is becoming symptomatic of the Government’s approach more generally.

“I don’t think it is good government to rush such matters through without proper consideration, I would like to see a much greater analysis of the constitutional position.

“Every Government has the right to get its promised legislation through Parliament - that I think is an absolute. But what we are seeing is half baked, half formed legislation put before this House ... but my serious concern is Government is either seeking to ignore what we do or over-react to the House of Lords expressing a different view.

“On Monday evening we had the Government briefing to journalists that if this House votes against tax credit statutory instruments on Monday, then the House will be suspended. That is nothing short of outrageous and appalling.

“Parliament doesn’t belong to the Government and the Government cannot dictate how Parliament acts.”

Baroness Smith criticised Lords Leader Baroness Stowell for failing to push inside Government for a joint committee of MPs and peers to study Evel despite the Lords voting for such an idea by a huge margin.

But Baroness Stowell earlier dismissed the suggestion, insisting the Government did not back a joint committee.

Outlining the Evel plans, which involve changes to the rules of the House of Commons, Baroness Stowell said they were “pragmatic and proportionate”.

MPs are due to debate and vote on the changes to the standing orders on Thursday. The changes, proposed by Commons leader Chris Grayling, add additional stages to legislation deemed English, or English and Welsh, only.

All MPs will still vote on all legislation at the start and end of each Bill but new laws affecting only England, or England and Wales, will not reach the statute book if they cannot also be agreed by a majority of English, or English and Welsh, MPs.

Baroness Stowell told peers: “We will give the English a strong voice on English matters while at the same time respecting the right of every MP from every part of the United Kingdom to debate and vote on every piece of legislation.”