WIGAN’S council leader has knocked back criticism that the House of Lords defied convention by voting against the Government’s controversial welfare reforms.
Lord Smith of Leigh was one of 289 peers who blocked the cuts to tax credits with a majority of 17, supporting calls for those affected to be compensated.
Government figures show around 18,000 working families across Wigan borough are in receipt of the benefits with many of them set to have been affected by the new measures.
The result of Monday’s vote in the Lords has been met with criticism from Conservative MPs who have accused peers of defying convention by interfering in financial matters.
Lord Smith said: “As soon as I heard that the tax credit vote was coming up in the Lords, I rearranged my schedule so I was able to go down and participate in the vote.
“There were some very powerful speeches against the proposal including one from the Archbishop of York. The Government has used the defeat to attack the Lords and threatens to create an extra 150 new Tory peers. However it was within the conventions between the Commons and the Lords for the Lords to ask the Government to rethink its plan which was not clear in the manifesto.
I think I do understand better than David Cameron how ordinary people live their livesLord Smith of Leigh
“There is also an implication that members of the House of Lords don’t understand real life. But living and working in Wigan as I do, I think I do understand better than David Cameron how ordinary people live their lives. This proposal to take away tax credits from hard working families would have a big impact on the borough and I was pleased that we have forced them to review these changes.”
Chancellor George Osborne criticised “unelected” Labour and Liberal Democrat peers for blocking the government on a financial measure and David Cameron is launching a “rapid review” into the constitutional fallout of the bruising result.
“David Cameron and I are clear that this raises constitutional issues that need to be dealt with,” the Chancellor said.
“However, it has happened, and now we must address the consequences of that. I said I would listen and that’s precisely that I intend to do.
“I believe we can achieve the same goal of reforming tax credits, saving the money we need to save to secure our economy, while at the same time helping in the transition.
“That is what I intend to do at the Autumn Statement. I am determined to deliver that lower welfare, higher wage economy that we were elected to deliver and the British people want to see.”
Peers defied calls to respect a century-old convention that the unelected upper chamber does not block financial measures approved by the Commons, sparking claims of a “constitutional outrage”.
A No10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is determined we will address this constitutional issue. A convention exists and it has been broken. He has asked for a rapid review to see how it can be put back in place.”