Tax credits in the House of Lords – The balance of forces

With a motion in the Lords looking like the best chance of forcing the Government to rethink its cuts to tax credits, here's a quick back of the envelope calculation of the balance of forces in the upper house. No doubt the whips will be aware of factors like pairing, illness etc that will affect these numbers, but they should be a useful indicator, nonetheless. Any information that could help update this over the next few days is welcome.

What this analysis shows is that the Government needs a substantial number of non-Conservatives to vote with them in order to outvote Labour and the Lib Dems. Abstentions are not enough. Talk of a constitutional crisis reflects this need for leverage over the key crossbenchers.

Update 22/10

One thing that will complicate the numbers below is the proliferation of motions against tax credits. There are now at least three:

Crossbench Peer Baroness Meacher: Has withdrawn her fatal motion, but believes her new proposal would force a new debate in the Commons which the Government would lose.

Labour Peer Baroness Hollis: Has put down a motion call for the implementation of tax credit cuts to be delayed until the Government has reported to Parliament on a transition plan. 

Lib Dem Peer Baroness Manzoor: Has put down a fatal motion that would block the tax credit cuts and force the Government back to square one.

All of these motions intend to force the issue back to the Commons, one way or another, but according to Paul Waugh, the Government feels less threatened by the Meacher and Hollis motions, than the Lib Dem one, which includes the 'fatal' word. 

At this stage the numbers below are best taken as an indicator of what would have happened if there had been a crossbench 'fatal' motion. It remains to be seen whether the opponents of tax credits can line up behind a single motion, and how strong that motion will be.

The Numbers

806 total peers

For a motion against tax credits

209 Labour

109 Lib Dems

1 Green Party

2 Crossbenchers including:

  • Lord Adebowale – confirmed on twitter he is prepared to vote against tax credit cuts.
  • Baroness Meacher: initially put down a fatal motion but under Government pressure has put down a motion calling for a new debate in the Commons.

Total: 321

Against a motion against tax credits 

Conservatives 248

Total: 248

Position not yet clear

173 remaining crossbenchers

  • Baroness Campbell of Surbiton has said: 'I will be at the debate and currently looking at all the figures – I am deeply concerned re child poverty effect.'

25 Bishops – reported to be sympathetic to Baroness Meacher's original fatal motion.

23 non-affiliated

4 DUP (Voted against tax credit cuts in the Commons)

3 UKIP (Voted for tax credit cuts in the Commons)

2 Independent Labour

2 Plaid Cymru (Voted against tax credit cuts in the Commons)

2 Ulster Unionists (Tom Elliott voted  against tax credit cuts in the Commons)

1 Independent Liberal Democrat

1 Independent Social Democrat

1 Independent Ulster Unionist

Total: 237






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