I sit writing this column in the House of Commons Library as word comes from the House of Lords that George Osborne’s plans to cut tax credits have been rejected. The Chancellor had hoped he would be able to avoid a full debate on these changes in the House of Commons by tabling a statutory instrument. This means the time we had to debate the changes was extremely limited. He did not count on the measure being rejected by the Lords, who had every right to do so given that the proposals were not included in the Conservative manifesto or in finance-related legislation.

The fact is that these plans amount to a work penalty. They would cut thousands of pounds in income from millions of families who work hard and do the right thing and deserved greater scrutiny and more thought. Thanks to the Lords’ decision, the government must now come up with new measures that protect all low and middle income families currently receiving tax credits for a minimum of three years. Welfare reform is a complicated and important issue, but what is clear from this debacle is that the Conservative claim to be the party of working people has been exposed once and for all as a complete sham.

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