The House of Lords is unusually packed this afternoon for the debate on tax credit cuts. As I explained earlier, there are four motions to consider, and the government has decided to plump for one by the Bishop of Portsmouth as the least worst way of peers expressing their dissatisfaction with the situation.
Tory Leader of the Lords Baroness Stowell has just told peers that she visited Number 11 this morning and that the Chancellor ‘would listen very carefully were the House to express its concern in the way that it is precedented for us to do’. The Bishop’s amendment adds the following to the end of the motion introducing the tax credit cuts:
‘…but this House regrets that the draft Regulations fail to take account of concerns about their short-term impact on working families and individuals currently receiving tax credits, and calls on the Government to consult further on the draft Regulations and revisit their impact.’
So the deal on the table for peers is: behave and back the ‘regret’ motion rather than any of the other three, and George Osborne will listen to you. It’s not clear what the Chancellor will do once he has listened. So peers now need to decide whether they can trust the Chancellor firstly to listen and hear their concerns, and secondly to do something with the concerns he has heard. He is apparently in ‘listening mode’ (and perhaps switched to a slightly irritable vibrate mode, rather than fully silent), but Number 10 did insist this morning that ‘the policy is the policy and it’s not going to change’, which may not inspire peers with much hope that listening mode is a particularly useful function.