Black Triangle will be releasing a statement on today’s proceedings in the House of Lords this weekend 18/19 February 2012
We followed the debate live on BBC Parliament today, but did not have advance copies of the order paper containing the proposed amendments for the debate.
We are, therefore, awaiting the Hansard report of the debate which will be published on Thursday.
We will study it thoroughly and reach our conclusions.
As Black Triangle’s John McArdle wrote here earlier today:
“All I can say is that, if our proud Lordly warriors traipse into that Chamber this afternoon and do not hold votes on the seven amendments but instead indulge in a bit of banter on stuff that does not deal with the substantive issues contained in the original amendments, we’ll be asking even more awkward questions.”
We promised to will hold those in power to account for any acts or omissions surrounding the welfare of disabled people. We guarantee you that, as we live, that is precisely what is going to happen.
Defiant peers have narrowly voted again to demand that the government drop plans to cut housing benefit for claimants in underoccupied homes.
The peers voted by 236 to 226, even though the Commons had last week rejected a similar amendment from the Lords and then imposed financial privilege, a means of preventing the Lords from tabling the same amendment again.
The Lords had opposed the so-called spare bedroom tax a fortnight ago, and on Tuesday reasserted that view by saying housing benefit cuts of £14 a week should not be imposed on claimants in under-occupied homes if they are unemployed, carers, foster carers, the disabled or war widows.
In a process known as ping pong, the Commons will now have to address the issue again itself next week when it returns from its half-term break. The amendment passed was costed by the department of work and pensions as up to £100m annually by 2013-14.
The welfare minister Lord Freud told peers: “We don’t think that taxpayers should be expected to meet the cost of somewhere approaching one million spare bedrooms, a cost which is around half a billion pounds every year.”
He said an extra £30m of funding had been announced for discretionary housing payments from the 2013-14 period aimed at those with disabilities living in adapted accommodation and for foster carers.
A succession of other Lords amendments passed a fortnight ago were either abandoned by peers, or accepted in modified form by Lord Freud, the welfare minister.
Freud also announced new restrictions on plans to ask cancer patients to make themselves available for work capability tests.
He said the presumption would be no time limit for employment and support allowance imposed on people being treated for cancer for at least six months – or recovering from cancer for another year – admitting “it is a very sensitive subject”. He said he had reached agreement on his new proposals with the cancer charity Macmillan.
Freud also agreed to hold a review into his plans to cut the benefit support for the parents of some severely disabled children.
The Lords debates on Monday were given extra political spice by the decision of the government to impose financial privilege on a large number of amendments. Financial privilege is a rarely used parliamentary device, asserting that only the Commons has the right to make decisions on bills that have large financial implications.
The move appeared to have antagonised many cross benchers, angry that they had not been forewarned by the government that their previous lengthy debates on the welfare bill were undercut since they were going to be labelled as financially privileged.
Peers including Lord Laming, the convenor of the cross bench peers and the former Commons speaker Lady Boothroyd challenged Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader of the Lords, on the use of privilege.
But Strathclyde insisted that privilege stemmed back from the 17th century and had been frequently used on money related bills by the previous Labour government.
He claimed there was widespread misunderstanding of the use of financial privilege, saying “the scope and presence of privilege are solely for the Commons; and the government have no role in designating whether or not a Lords amendment impinges on privilege”.
Strathclyde said: “That is not closing down debate or rendering our work pointless. It is simply unprofitable to send back to the Commons any Lords amendments which invite the same privileged response from the Commons”.
But the historian Lord Hennessy said: “If one or the other chamber pushes its powers to the maximum, it tends to produce a spiral of escalation that leads to parliament becoming much less than the sum of its parts. It would be impossible for your lordships’ House to serve as a chamber of what Walter Bagehot called “respected revisers” if the other place pushed its undoubted financial privilege to the maximum in anything but the most exceptional circumstances”.
David Orr, chief executive, National Housing Federation praised the Lords decision to stand its ground on the bedroom tax saying: “Today’s result is a victory for commonsense and fairness. We are delighted that peers have stood firm and yet again voted to lessen the impact of the bedroom tax.
“Together, we have shown that it is simply unfair to penalise some of the most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere else to move.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010