Political shenanigans would be funny if not so serious

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If the issue at stake was not so potentially devastating for the hard-working poor of this nation the political shenanigans of the past couple of days would be hilarious.

We have the Tory Party criticising the House of Lords on the grounds that it is an unelected chamber!

And even more ironically, this resulted from the fact that for once it has done something meaningful in throwing out George Osborne’s tax credit 
proposals.

All of a sudden the Tories seem to have realised that the House of Lords needs to be reformed or – better still – abolished.

But it needs to be replaced not by a pack of nodding donkeys as George Osborne wishes but by a body such as the regional Senate proposed by Ed Miliband –a body that would do precisely what the Lords has just done – hold the government to account.

We also have the SNP up in arms criticising the Lords – and particularly the Labour Lords – for falling short by failing to propose an amendment which would be fatal to Mr Osborne’s proposals. That makes for an amusing constitutional conundrum in itself.

Moreover, the SNP themselves had already proposed an amendment which was identical in effect to the Labour amendment they themselves subsequently objected to so vociferously!

While political posturing was at a premium, it was heartening to see the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, showing a bit of statesmanship by promising Mr Osborne that should he modify his plans he will be greeted by Labour not with ridicule but support.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Does the Conservative government’s setback in the House of Lords over tax credits warrant a review under Lord Strathclyde of the relationship between the two Westminster chambers (your report, 28 October)? The plain truth is that the government was not simply outmanoeuvred; it displayed appalling judgment over the issue from the start.

Its problems began a fortnight ago after an impassioned outburst by Folkestone beautician Michelle Dorell, a member of the BBC Question Time audience.

Messrs Cameron and Osborne ought to have been alerted then about the widespread public discontent over potential and considerable loss of income for many people (a large number of whom supported it last May).
The government then compounded its own difficulties with an astonishing mistake.

It claimed that the second chamber had no right to veto a finance measure passed by the House of Commons. In an accomplished parliamentary performance, Baroness Hollis was able to show it was wrong on a number of counts.

As a result of consultation with the Clerk of the House and assiduous use of library facilities, she found a number of things.

The first was that the Lords was considering a statutory instrument and not a finance bill; that the House of Commons did not have the full information contained in it when it considered the matter; that it was practical for the government to delay the statutory instrument introducing the tax credit changes to provide transitional protection for existing claimants; and that new measures could work if they applied to new claimants.

The Upper House may be an outdated, bloated, overpopulated facility. But it performed its role properly on Monday night. Its reform should not be triggered simply by a fit of pique from a government who simply got things wrong.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

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