Remember the Tax Credits row and how it was blown up into a constitutional crisis when the House of Lords voted for a DELAY in implementing the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates)(Amendment) Regulations 2015   The government had claimed that cuts to tax credits were crucial to its plans for public finances but the cuts were abandoned in the Autumn Statement 

The House of Lords voted for a DELAY so that the position of those already receiving tax credits could be better protected.  They voted decisively against rejecting the regulations entirely.

Claiming that the Lords was over-stepping the mark in relation to financial matters, the government set up a review under the Chairmanship of Lord Strathclyde.  The aim was to consider the powers of the Lords in relation to statutory instruments.

The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has reported on the Strathclyde Review and concluded that:

"The Government should not produce legislative proposals aimed at implementing the Strathclyde Review’s recommendations. Such legislation would be an overreaction and entirely disproportionate to the House of Lords’ legitimate exercise of a power that even Lord Strathclyde has admitted is rarely used. The Government’s time would be better spent in rethinking the way it relies on secondary legislation for implementing its policy objectives and in building better relations with the other groupings in the House of Lords."

The Commons Committee has pointed out that there was NO constitutional crisis over what the Lords did and there is no need for change in the procedure relating to statutory instruments, least of all for a change in legislation which could have consequences- such as an increased risk of judicial intervention in the relations between both Houses of Parliament.

There is very serious concern at how the government now uses SECONDARY legislation to push through what amount to considerable policy matters.  Secondary legislation receives far less Parliamentary scrutiny than primary legislation (i.e. Bills leading to Acts of Parliament).  Limiting the powers of the Lords in relation to Secondary legislation would therefore result in significant enhancement of executive power.  As such, it would be a major constitutional reform and not a mere adjustment to parliamentary process.  A constitutional wolf in sheep's clothing.

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