Farron on Tax Credits vote: Osborne must go back to the drawing board

Commenting on the votes in the House of Lords tonight which resulted in two Government defeats on tax credits, Tim Farron said:

The Government has been forced into an embarrassing climb down. George Osborne must now go back to the drawing board and come back with plans to balance the books that don’t simply attack working families who are already struggling to get by.

We have sent a clear signal to the Tories that the British people will not accept this scale of attack on the vital support they need.

Tonight’s vote gives people hope, but the threat still looms large.

It is utterly depressing that Labour did not join with the Liberal Democrats to kill off the cuts to Tax Credits completely.

We support the delay in the proposals and the demand for transitional protection, but this alone won’t stop the Conservative’s attack on working families who rely on Tax Credits, or ensure that it really does pay more to be in work than remain on benefits.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to do all we can stop tax credit changes that disproportionately hurt low-earning families, and urge others to do the same.

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42 Comments

  • I haven’t been following this story very intently…so what excuse have Labour given for not backing the more hardline motion the Lib Dem peers tabled?

  • David Evans 26th Oct '15 - 9:50pm

    Typical of Labour to run away from the Lib Dem motion to kill the Tax Credit cuts. They prefer a weak Labour motion to a strong Lib Dem one.

  • David Evans 26th Oct '15 - 9:51pm

    Lib Dems have spent five years facing down unfair Conservative Cuts. Labour folded after four hours. What a joke of a party.

  • I don’t agree with having a House of Lords but I cannot believe that the Labour Peers abstained and did not support the Lib Dems motion this is disgraceful and the Labour Party shoud hang their heads in shame.

  • Well of course they couldn’t give any credit to the Lib Dems could they? Far too tribal for that

  • I don’t understand why Tim wanted to kill off the Bill, rather than modify it. Surely it cannot be right that employers continue to pay their employees so little that the taxpayers have to top it up? We have to move towards a proper Living Wage and employers themselves should pay their staff that. The Tax Credits system is Kafka-risqué and utterly humiliates working people. It’s not an easy system to navigate and you are made to feel awful at every turn. It should be scrapped and people should be paid a decent wage at source.

  • nigel hunter 26th Oct '15 - 11:13pm

    The house of lords has to vote down a motion passed by tory mps? Have they the right to run the country on only 25% of the vote brought about by spreading fear and division? The tories discuss the abuse? of the constitution. Something that goes back 300 years. I think the constitution needs to be brought up to date.Labour do not support the motion ,cos they are part of the establishment and want to have power for themselves not to represent the working poor.

  • Which Lib Dem peers didn’t vote for the motion? I presume 12 – at least – didn’t.

  • While it would have given us a feel good factor for about five minutes, winning the wrecking motion would have caused an extreme reaction from the Tory government.
    At least, this way, we have a vote for common sense, justice and most importantly some relief for the working poor.
    The reaction from the Tories will be bad enough. Osborne had a face like thunder. Jacob Rees-Mogg on Newnight was demonstrating the Tories are bad losers, having their inalienable right to govern challenged. Instead of being grateful for the Lords getting Osborne out of the deep hole he dug for himself, J Rees-Mogg was calling foul and threatening the Lords with purga-tory.

  • ” the right to run the country on only 25% of the vote ” and do the lib dems expect to be able to stop it when they got 5.3% of the total electorate. Of those that voted 4.5 times as many voted tory as voted lib dem.

    ” by spreading fear and division?” actually what they said was reasonably accurate, a labour minority might have had to depend on SNP votes.

    The FPTP exists until there is something better problem is the electorate seem to be quite happy with it the result of the AV referendum was 2 to 1 in favour of no change.

  • Bruce
    The 2015 general election result has increased the number of people wishing for a better voting system. A lot of people are far from happy with the FPTP voting system today.

  • Dave Orbison 27th Oct '15 - 4:37am

    Howard – totally agree with you on this one. We have five miserable years to look forward to with this Government. There will be many occasions where opposition parties will need to cooperate with each other in order to resist the most odious legislation the Tories dream up. The result of yesterday’s cooperation between LibDems and Labour not only resulted in Osborne having to think again but has put the Government entirely on the back foot and highlighted their deceit in the GE over this matter. It’s rather disappointing then that rather than appreciate what was achieved, some have chosen to focus rather narrowly over a difference in tactics. Let’s remember it’s the Tories who are in Government. The more LibDems and Labour learn to fight together the more chance of the Tories being reigned in.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '15 - 6:12am

    I wish that the government could give everyone in the world as much money as they need, but mature democracy is not as simple as that.

    My instincts are rarely completely wrong and if you read Tim’s statement and the statements of others their main problem is the morality of it. The Conservatives won the election and Lib Dems do not have a right to vote down in the Lords every single Tory measure that they do not like. Concerns about democracy are an excuse, Tim’s concern is morality, not democracy.

    It’s a big problem and people can find solace that other mainstream commentators, many of whom have vested interests in the Labour Party, have also worked themselves into a moral outrage, but moral outrage is arguably not a way to run a country and democratic concerns, even if you don’t agree with them, should be precious.

  • Cameron and Osborne had five years to reform the House of Lords and blocked the attempts we made to do that, so it’s a bit rich for them to complain now that it is acting unconstitutionally. However, there is certainly a case to be made that our ‘fatal’ amendment was too iconoclastic given that the Commons had approved the legislation. That said, I support what we did, first because in order to survive as a party at this point in history we have to be distinctive. Secondly, a subtle but important point for the health of our democracy, there are several million people who are likely to suffer as a result of this legislation and at least they know now that they have a voice in parliament. Further alienation of large numbers of people from the political process is the last thing that this country needs.

  • Charles Rothwell 27th Oct '15 - 7:13am

    The Labour top brass know full well that (as Phyllis points out) the benefits system in this country has swollen way beyond anything which Beveridge and people in the first couple of decades of the Welfare State would have dreamt of (or, rather, have had nightmares about!) and that the system is hated by many of the aspirational working class/lower middle class who have become very disillusioned with Labour (“white van man”/”St George’s flag tweets etc.) I think that, instead of just going on morality and calling for an outright “No!”, we should have been quick off the mark and stated that we can see where Cameron/Osborne are coming from in wanting to reform a system which has gotten way out of control but that (as usual) the Tories are going about reforming it in a brutal and inept manner and the LD Lords should have led the call to DELAY implementation and rethink the proposals, calling upon Labour (plus the bishops etc) to follow them. As it is, the LD motion went down in minutes in the first vote and I do not think this won us much applause outside of our own ranks (or, of course, did a thing to stave off total misery at Christmas for numerous teaching assistants etc.) As for “Old Fogey Rees-Mogg”, Lady Hollis made it plain on “Newsnight”, the Tories had dug their own hole by not declaring the measure a money bill. Hubris + incompetence combined.

  • It would seem democracy is a pick and mix option for LibDems.
    Shackled to your own moral high ground when it suits, unpriniciple abusers of the concept of democracy when it is convenient, claiming victory on an issues using the unelected hordes of unelectable but enobled LibDems in the House of Lords.. Wow!!

    Be gone democracy, there is no place for you here!!

  • Allan Brame 27th Oct '15 - 8:07am

    @Raddiy It’s not ideal, but thank heavens someone is standing up for the three quarters of the country who did not vote for this govenment

  • Denis Mollison 27th Oct '15 - 8:17am

    Raddiy – democracy is even more pick and mix for the Tories. They could and should have reformed the Lords during the last government.

  • I watched Lady Hollis’s speech…The quietest most effective emasculation I’ve ever witnessed……..Was it my imagination or were Osborne’s eyes bulging a little more at his post vote interview?

  • Douglas Downie 27th Oct '15 - 8:26am

    Well done Tim for pushing this forward and even better done the Peers who voted the TaxCreditShambles down!

    Yes of course the Labour Party wouldn’t support us – they are an incompetent mess.

    But at least we staked out the high ground which allowed the crossbenchers (and even Lord Lawson I believe) to appear to be building a compromise motion.

    As for the Upper House being undemocratic – well just nice to see the biter (Cameron) and the other Tories who scuppered reform of the House of Lords, bit.

    Oh that we had had this clarity on tuition fees. That might be history, but perhaps we have learnt the lesson.

  • David Evans 27th Oct '15 - 8:28am

    Sad to see so much time being given on TV to Chris Grayling whining about how the elected government is being stopped by the unelected lords, but no questioner seems to have pointed out that David Cameron clearly said Tax Credits would not be cut in order to get elected.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Oct '15 - 8:29am

    You did support the present Government on unpopular changes, a former Bath MP supported “food banks.” I walked out of a meeting, encouraging local organisations on involvement. No fresh vegetables, no meat or perishables. Even personal items for women are now included, I understand. How sad is a society when this needs to happen.

    I watched as child contact were being talked about, and centres for troubled families. Another area.

    Housing, there were campaigns by several councillors.

    Your Party supports the legal stand on drugs, how about the NHS, the pressure our doctors are under, a week to see your GP. Unless urgent.

    I suggest there is less politics and more concerns on the true issues!

  • Raddiy, I’d agree with you had Cameron not explicitly said tax credits would remain in the runup to the election.

  • Bill le Breton 27th Oct '15 - 8:32am

    May I thank Baroness Mansoor. She stood resolute under enormous and mostly patronising pressure. An inspiration.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct ’15 – 6:12am
    “I wish that the government could give everyone in the world as much money as they need, but mature democracy is not as simple as that.”

    Eddie, it’s not about giving people as much money as they need. I agree with the principle that employers should pay their staff a decent wage, it shouldn’t be the taxpayer. It’s about the fact that one minute a family are working all hours cleaning offices or whatever and existing on 15k and the next minute they have 1500 pounds taken away from their household budget. How are they supposed to pay for rent, electricity etc? During the Thatcher years we had Cardboard City in our major cities where people were literally sleeping on cardboard boxes on the streets because of poverty. It’s the same mistake the Government made with the implementation of the Bedroom Tax. It gives people no time and no options for filling in the gaps, just as the Bedroom Tax charged people for having a spare room when there were no alternative houses for them to downsize to. It’s far hard and too fast. The Givernment are saying that other measures such as the National Living Wage etc will make up the shortfall (it won’t) but the whole package doesn’t kick in til the end of this Parliament (just in time for the next election) so how are people supposed to manage for food and heating etc til then , they can’t wait til 2020! This was the point Heidi Allen was making.

    There is a moral aspect to this and that is the juxtaposition of the government giving tax cuts to the richest people whilst taking money away from the working poor who are doing their very best to work their way out of poverty. That’s frankly immoral.

    It’s also bad policy economically because the poor spend all their money on food etc but the rich tend to squirrel any extras away or go abroad – and the economy needs people to spend money in our shops.

  • @Raddiy, I suggest you look at our history, you’ll find that one of the reasons we have a functioning democracy today is down to stands taken by our ‘unelected’ representatives in the HoL and it’s predecessor assemblies…

  • i cannot believe that anyone would criticise the Lib Dem Peers…thecomments from some are unbelievable. The HoL is a non elected body…well where were the Labour Party on reform when it was available….those who complain that it is better to understand that the bill for welfare has to be cut and therefor it was unreasonable for Lib Dems to do what they did, the Torieswill tinker with this proposal..what we will have isa few random nods in the direction of the Labour party and nervous backbenchers ,doing just enough to get the attack on the poor through. After all the government now know how spineless Labour is both in the Commons and the HofL.
    Left wing Labour…in your dreams.

  • Agree with Joe Otten at 22.14. There is no way Labour were going to open up real (i.e. not a Tory smokescreen) debate on the role of the House of Lords. A debate which lots in our lot are very keen to ignite!

    Proud of our peers (esp. Baroness Mansoor) for putting out a strong show of support for the working poor (through all motions) and think Tim has really led from the front here – effectively outflanking Labour on an issue they believe they should own!

    @eddiesammon 6.12am. Cameron lied (no other word for it) and this isn’t some constitutional tinkering this is ‘heating or eating’ for the working poor. Surely helping people is why we get involved in politics – not to uphold democratic conventions? Does the end not justify the means?

  • Richard Underhill 27th Oct '15 - 10:10am

    Helen Dudden 27th Oct ’15 – 8:29am Food banks are part of the solution, not part of the problem. If they operated on a larger scale they might have 7-day opening as the supermarkets have. There is penty of fresh food available and much of it is wasted. Equipping food banks with rows of freezers and chiller cabinets might be one solution, but the real problem is money, which can be used in existing shops.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '15 - 10:12am

    D McKay, my point is that benefits are not more important than democracy. If people think they are then fine, but it shows that an awful lot of nonsense has been written down the years about people’s concern for democracy.

    It’s not good. I expect at least a degree of honesty. Cameron lied, which is bad, but it also looks like a lot of other people have been lying throughout the years about their love of democracy. Or more likely, they are too afraid to stand up for it because suddenly it has fallen out of fashion.

    Again, I’m not referring necessarily to the outcome of this vote, I am referring to the arguments people are using to justify it.

  • The LibDem motion was defeated by 310 to 99….Had every Labour MP voted for the motion, instead of abstaining, it would still have been defeated by 100 votes….To defeat the government cross-bencher support was needed and, as the debate showed, they would not support Baroness Manzoor…

  • Denis Loretto 27th Oct '15 - 11:02am

    I find much to agree with in Charles Rothwell’s post above. It depends how it is played out now. If the government somehow get away with avoiding any meaningful easing of the impact on the lowest paid, then we can make much of the failure of not just Labour but also the cross-bench peers to support Baroness Mansoor’s initiative. However it is fair to say that the overall burden of the tax credits at a whopping £30bn needs attention and we should not get ourselves into a position of defending the entire status quo.

    The crucial thing now is for the House of Commons to support Frank Fields’ cross party motion to revamp the alterations in tax credits so as to reduce the impact on the lowest paid while slightly increasing the impact on the somewhat higher paid. This would democratically “legitimise” the action taken by the Lords and make it doubly ridiculous for a vengeful government to punish the upper house.

    On the other hand if revenge is attempted hopefully it would be a significant step towards the reform of the Lords which the Conservatives cynically wrecked (with collusion from Labour) when the Lib Dems attempted it in pursuance of the coalition agreement.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Oct '15 - 12:06pm

    Richard Underhill, Ricketts and obesity are products of a poor diet. We need to resolve housing issues and standards to provide a better understanding of the need to put what is important issues first. Keeping warm is very important for the young, at a cost that is affordable.

    Expenses for those in Government is another important subject. Osbourne wants cuts, let his Government lead the way forward.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '15 - 12:15pm

    Thanks Phyllis, I agree it is a bad policy, but my main concern, which I don’t want to raise much more for now, is anti-democratic arguments which frankly sound a bit Marxist by emphasising the economic rights of the minority rather than electoral mandates. Although I admit, a lot of people are focusing on electoral mandates, but Tim is mainly focusing on the economic rights of the minority. Many on the left are doing the same thing too.

    Thankfully, I am not completely alone in saying these things:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/27/tax-credits-vote-cameron-lords-reform

  • Eddie Sammon: If a policy has to benefit the “majority” in order to be democratic then that would make a lot of liberal policy profoundly undemocratic. It is usually the rights of the minority that require most protection, otherwise the result is tyrrany of the majority, whcih may be technically “democratic” but it is not liberal.

    As far as electoral mandate is concerned, arguably the Tories do not have one, especially not for this policy: it was not in their manifesto, and the Tories were voted into power on the votes of about 25% of the electorate.

  • Thanks Eddie. I know the Tories would like to paint it in such broad strokes (i.e. benefits over democracy) but the Speaker sees no constitutional crisis and frankly this all seems like a smokescreen to cover up ineptitude (i.e. not putting it in a finance bill!).

    And let’s be honest if this somehow pulled down or weakened the House of Lords (as it currently is) isn’t that something we’d like to see?

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '15 - 1:56pm

    Hi Alex, well I used to believe simply in representative democracy, so policies can still be unpopular but democratic, but I suppose it is also legitimate for other forces to override elected representatives if it is in the interests of the country, but I think this power should be used sparingly.

    Of course, if one part of the country votes to attack the other party then I don’t think people should just lie down and take it in the name of democracy.

    D McKay, yes it would be a good thing if it led to a pulled down or elected HOL.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Oct '15 - 3:13pm

    I asked a manager in a well known supermarket today about the wastage of fresh foods. Health and safety restricts that happening at present.

    Of course, those being forced to exist from “foods banks” need safe food to eat.

  • The House of Lords may not be democratically elected, as we would like it to be, but it is still an important element in our democratic system. Its principal role is to scrutinise legislation proposed by the House of Commons and amend it if after consideration and debate its members feel that the legislation could and should be improved. How can it suddenly be undemocratic if the Lords do what they are there for and tell the government it needs to think again?

    Eddie – you were right when you wrote about this being a moral issue, but you then trivialise it by saying that we do not have a right to vote down every Tory policy that we do not like, something no one is suggesting. But moral outrage is a legitimate basis for political campaigning: opposition to slavery; support for national self-determination; campaigning against apartheid; votes for women; old age pensions; the national health service….. The people who campaigned on these issues were driven by their belief that things had to change because the current situation was immoral. Tim Farron seems to be restoring that sort of energy to the party, and yes, in this instance driven by a moral outrage that the government was trying to get the Lords to agree to taking money from the poorest in our society while at almost the same time the Commons was discussing changes in inheritance tax which would exempt the heirs of people with £1 million houses from death duties.

  • “I suggest you look at our history, you’ll find that one of the reasons we have a functioning democracy today is down to stands taken by our ‘unelected’ representatives in the HoL and it’s predecessor assemblies…” Roland

    Well I have been looking at our history and have come across a couple of quotes from a fellow called Lloyd George:

    “The right of the Commons to grant supplies, is a franchise won through generations of sacrifice and of suffering. The Commons of England stormed the heights after many repulses, many a failure, with heavy losses, but they captured them.”

    “Measures… put forward by men elected by a majority of the people” should not be “rejected or mutilated by a House with no responsibility to anyone, not elected by anyone”.

  • Katerina Porter 28th Oct '15 - 10:33pm

    Tax Credits were brought in to cope with unemployment by persuading employers to take on staff but pay them very little
    The talk of the huge benefit bill involves a misuse of language. The biggest item is the state pension, but most people in work have paid National Insurance towards it, or rather their National insurance has paid the current cost of the pension at any time. It is not a “Benefit”
    Another very big item is Housing Benefit. Mrs Thatcher’s Right to Buy which involved Local Authorities being unable to replace social housing was not only to produce a “property owning democracy” but also to help private landlords, who have since exploited the situation. I don’t think there is any cap on subsidised rents?
    In the old days there was simple way to deal with a shortage of money and it was to put up income taxes, in a graduated way. related to means. Now it is considered impossible and a sin to even think of it.

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