BRIDGET PHILLIPSON: ‘Party of the people’ claim is a total sham

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

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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.

The return of Parliament after conference season is always hectic as we get back to the business of holding the Conservative government to account.

With austerity set to continue throughout the Parliament it is more important than ever to make sure that the government is making the right decisions in the way it spends taxpayers’ money.

That’s why, when a place became available on the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I put myself forward as one of Labour’s representatives.

I’m pleased that following a ballot of all Labour MPs, I was elected onto the committee.

It will be a privilege to serve on this influential select committee.

It is the oldest in the House of Commons, dating back to the days when William Gladstone was Chancellor in the early 1860s.

It has a broad remit and is responsible for overseeing government expenditure, looking at how effectively public money is being spent and holding ministers to account.

In recent years the profile of the committee has risen. You may have heard of the work it did during the last Parliament when it tackled tax evasion and avoidance.

It will certainly be an exciting new challenge to help make a real difference to the way in which public money is spent and services are run.