After the government’s humiliating defeats in the House of Lords yesterday over tax credits, how will it seek revenge on the upper chamber? Chris Grayling, the Leader of the House of Commons, spoke on the Today programme about the government’s plans. On tax credits, he said ‘the Chancellor is clear, he will look again at the transitional arrangements’. But on the relationship between the Commons and the Lords, Grayling said a more careful approach would be taken — one that will be worked out ‘in the next few hours’:
‘The first thing not to do is to react on the hoof to this. We have to have a measured look at what the Lords has done, what the constitutional arrangements have been, what they need to be. There will have to be change – of course there will have to be change.
‘The Prime Minister has said he wants to setup a review of the way these conventions work. That’s the right thing to do and we’ll be working on the details in the next few hours. We shouldn’t rush through change, we need to respond to this in a measured way’.
One of the ideas floating around is to flood the Lords with hundreds of new Tory peers, giving the government a majority. Grayling refused to deny the government is planning to do this — ‘I don’t think we’re ruling anything in or out at this stage, we’re only starting the work’ — and reiterated the need for a careful approach, but one that will strike down the Lords:
‘I’d be reluctant to see us do really dramatic changes but it’s really a matter to try and sort out the relationship between the Commons and the Lords. If the Lords is intent on wrecking the manifesto of the elected government…we’ve already seen them reject something that was in our manifesto, we’ve seen them reject part of the welfare changes that were very much in our election platform back in May’.
There is clearly anger in the government this morning and a desire to teach the Lords a lesson, but it’s hard to do this without wading into a quagmire of constitutional arguments. Change is clearly a’coming — as Grayling said ‘I don’t really see how after yesterday we can say no changes are needed’ — but it looks like we’ll hear more this morning. One thing is for certain: the opposition benches will inwardly gloating that they have given George Osborne a double headache to deal with this morning.