Yesterday in the Lords (part 1): let the banner of rebellion be unfurled…

In a dramatic fifth day of the Report Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill, Liberal Democrat cohesion amongst the Parliamentary Party in the Lords collapsed, with two of the three biggest rebellions in this Parliament ensuing. And, to be honest, it wasn’t difficult to see it coming. However, unexpectedly, only one of them led to a Government defeat.

Amendment 58D, moved by Labour peer, Lord Mackenzie of Luton, was a relatively opportunistic attempt to provide an exemption from the proposed benefit cap for “vulnerable individuals, and individuals and couples with children”, threatened with homelessness, owed a duty to be provided with temporary accommodation or who had been accepted as homeless and in priority need. Opportunistic because, as one Peer commented, it looked as though it had been drawn up on the back of an envelope.

Baroness Walmsley, whilst supporting the Amendment, noted;

I do not necessarily think that it is exactly the right amendment, but we need to send it back to another place and ask it to think again and tell us a little more about the measures that will be put in place — I hope that they will be, and know that the Government intend that they will be — to make sure that families with children are not made homeless.

and Baroness Hussein-Ece pleaded on behalf of the diversity of urban communities;

I want to live in a mixed community. I do not want to live in a Paris-style ghetto. I do not want ghettos such as in Paris, where the poorer families have been forced into the doughnut outside the city. We should support mixed communities. We want our children to have a healthy outlook and mix with people from all different backgrounds.

Repeatedly, Liberal Democrat Peers sought reassurance from the Minister, with Lords Ashdown and German offering Lord Freud every opportunity to offer clarity on transitional arrangements, and reassurance that families would not be made homeless as a result of the proposed changes in the Bill. But clarity and reassurance came there none.

With the Crossbenchers having hitherto voted heavily against the Government, it looked likely that another defeat loomed. And then, relief for the Minister, as the Crossbenchers split 52-31 against the Amendment, and with seventeen Liberal Democrat rebels outweighed by forty-two remaining loyal to the Government, the Amendment was lost by twenty-eight votes, 250-222.

Liberal Democrats supporting the Amendment were as follows;

    Avebury, Lord
    Greaves, Lord
    Hamwee, Baroness
    Hussein-Ece, Baroness (her first rebellion of this Parliament)
    Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord
    Maclennan of Rogart, Lord
    Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Baroness
    Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, Lord
    Roberts of Llandudno, Lord
    Sharp of Guildford, Baroness (her first rebellion of this Parliament)
    Shipley, Lord
    Smith of Clifton, Lord
    Taylor of Goss Moor, Lord
    Thomas of Winchester, Baroness
    Tonge, Baroness
    Tyler, Lord
    Walmsley, Baroness

This represented the second largest Liberal Democrat rebellion of this Parliament to date, only topped by the nineteen Peers voting against the Government on the European Union Bill on 15 June last year. But worse was to follow…

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5 Comments

  • Nick (not Clegg) 24th Jan '12 - 7:52am

    “But worse was to follow … ”

    Or better – depending on your point of view.

  • How will having to move out of places like Richmond impoverish people? No one wants to see families have to move but you can’t expect the vast bulk of British people on moderate incomes to put people up in houses that they could only dream of affording…

    We all say we want to avoid Paris style “ghettos” but London already has areas far worse than the worst Paris has to offer… what would your solution to this be? To tax middle earners more so they can only afford to live in places like Brixton whilst moving some of the worst off from Brixton to Chelsea? The current housing benefit strategy doesn’t keep our communities “integrated”. It mean the most expensive communities are simply full of the rich and those on benefits, two of the smallest niches of our country, whilst there is no representation of the middle.

  • Tony Greaves 24th Jan '12 - 2:43pm

    We are going to end up with them full of just the rich. (And I don’t think it’s Richmond that people are going to move into!)

    Tony Greaves

  • James Sandbach 24th Jan '12 - 3:09pm

    Tony – what’s your position on the Legal Aid Bill? Are you taking an interest in this – raises similar issues to welfare reform etc..

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