Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Featherstone have both laid motions in an attempt to block the government’s controversial feed-in tariff cuts.
The Labour leader laid an early day motion (EDM) yesterday with the support of shadow DECC ministers Lisa Nandy, Alan Whitehead, Clive Lewis, Barry Gardiner and chief whip Rosie Winterton.
The EDM has been tabled at the same time Baroness Featherstone laid a non-fatal motion within the House of Lords in an attempt to annul the statutory instrument.
But while the two motions place bumps in the road for the negative instrument before it is due to come into effect on 8 February 2016, it is still considered to be unlikely that they will be successful in preventing the new feed-in tariff regime from coming into effect.
Corbyn’s EDM calls for an annulment of the feed-in tariff amendment order 2015, the statutory instrument containing changes to the FiT regime centred around a future domestic rate of 4.39p/kWh.
Early day motions are however merely submissions for a debate in the House of Commons and despite Corbyn’s position as leader of the opposition, very few are actually debated.
Of potentially more significance is Baroness Featherstone’s non-fatal motion in the House of Lords.
For secondary legislation such as this the House of Lords acts to analyse and debate the issue and does not have the power to amend the legislation itself. Non-fatal motions are rarely successful and most do not even progress to a vote.
The Joint Committee on Convention’s 2006 report into the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament argued that statutory instruments should not be “regularly rejected” but did stress the need for such powers in certain situations.
“In the absence of a power to amend SIs, the most constructive way for the Lords, as the revising chamber, to reject an SI is by motion (or amendment) incorporating a reason, making it clear both before and after the debate what the issue is,” the report stated.
The Conservatives are too outnumbered in the Lords. Of a total of 822 sitting peers the Tories number just 241. Labour has 213 peers and the Liberal Democrats 111. It is therefore the 179 cross-bench peers, and which way they would side if a vote were to take place, that would be integral to the chances of annulling the instrument.
The House of Commons has indeed been defeated on various issues already in this parliamentary term, most notably forcing a u-turn on changes to tax credit last year.
But the government would retain the right to re-lay the instrument under a new title if the current one is annulled. If it is again knocked back at the second attempt, the government could then embody the instrument within an entirely new bill in what would be considered a last resort.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed this morning that shadow energy and climate change secretary Lisa Nandy is to stay on at shadow DECC despite rumours linking her with a different portfolio as part of Labour’s ongoing reshuffle.
Nandy was rumoured to have been offered the shadow defence secretary position by Corbyn earlier this week – a suggestion which was knocked by Nandy on Twitter yesterday – and the Wigan MP confirmed she would be staying in her current role during this afternoon’s BBC Daily Politics show.