Government should thank Lords for tax credits vote, says Wilson

Sammy Wilson said 5,000 of his constituents would lose about �1,000 under the tax credit plans
Sammy Wilson said 5,000 of his constituents would lose about �1,000 under the tax credit plans

The House of Lords decision not to pass the Government’s tax credit bill was hailed by a former Northern Ireland finance minister – while another unionist described it as an act of “constitutional vandalism”.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said that the changes would have meant a drop in income of £1,000 for about 5,000 residents in his East Antrim constituency, and as many as 120,000 across the Province as a whole.

Following Monday’s vote, Mr Wilson said: “The government, rather than raging about the Lords, should be thankful that this vote gives them an opportunity to row back from a decision which is going to alienate many of its own supporters and make the crazy economic policies of Corbyn and his fanatics seem attractive.”

If changes must be made, he said, “a safety net must stay in place until the arrangements are made for legally enforced higher minimum wages”.

UUP members of the Lords did not vote.

Reg Empey said in a statement: “The issue is voting against the House of Commons on money matters.

“Whilst we remain steadfast in our opposition to these changes to working tax credits, Ulster Unionist lords intentionally did not vote. We are opposed to the idea of the unelected house overturning a major decision of the elected House of Commons. Such an act of constitutional vandalism should not be allowed to take place in 2015.”

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, said the party’s action “clearly shows that Mike Nesbitt’s party is still wedded to Tory ideology and their commitment to austerity”.

The SDLP had also opposed the changes, with leader Alasdair McDonnell saying before the vote that “for thousands of hard-working people, tax credits mean the difference between getting by and not”.

Following the defeat of his plans by the Lords, the Chancellor promised to bring forward measures to ease the pain of the cuts.

The tax credit cuts amount to roughly £4.4 billion, and Labour’s Owen Smith said even if measures planned for 2020 were brought forward to next year, the cuts would still leave families worse off.