We’ve written before about how annoying the House of Lords is. Those unelected peers (of all political persuasions) spend their time doing their best to thwart the evil that elected politicians are so good at doing. In recent times they have halted Chris Grayling’s plan to get rid of judicial reviews. They have stopped George Osborne from allowing employers to strip away workers’ rights in exchange for a few shares. And yesterday they threatened to stop the government from taking £1300 a year from the 3 million poorest households by submitting a “fatal motion” – which is a little used technique available to the Lords to stop the Commons worst atrocities.
Faced with not being able to inflict untold misery on the poorest in society, the Tories had to take drastic action. But when faced with the upper house threatening to block their evil plans, what action could they take? Only something more evil – they threatened to completely suspend the House of Lords if they voted against the benefit cuts. Mwhahaha.
In political terms, this is about as evil as it can possibly get – it’s the sort of thing that a dictator does. If the Lords had overstepped their authority, this would be a last ditch action to stop them, but in this case there was no such justification. Traditionally the Lords don’t block manifesto promises, or financial bills. But this was not a manifesto promise. In fact, Cameron made it very clear on live TV saying that he would not cut child tax credits. The Lords are also forbidden from blocking financial bills. But the tax credit cuts are not a financial bill – the government has intentionally submitted the changes as a statutory instrument – the difference being that a statutory instrument does not require parliamentary scrutiny and debate.
Given that the Lords are well within their rights to try to block the change, threatening to suspend the upper house is possibly the most evil act yet. Such a move would allow the Tories true despotic power, with no-one to block their schemes. Unfortunately the Lords took note of the threat, and the bishops and cross bench peers who proposed it have backed down, so the pesky upper house lives to fight another day.