Britain faces a potential political crisis as the House of Lords threatens to overturn the supremacy of the Commons.
Government sources have warned they may flood the Lords with hundreds of Tory nominees to bring it to heel, or even suspend the chamber altogether.
Prime minister David Cameron is furious that the Lords is threatening to deploy a rarely-used ‘fatal motion’ to scupper government plans to cut tax credits which opposition parties say will cost millions of low income families some €1,300 a year, and push 200,000 children into poverty.
With Labour still in shock at the sheer scale of its defeat at the May general election, and its MPs smarting at Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader despite the vast majority of them voting against him, the Lords has effectively become the main source of opposition to majority Tory rule in the Commons.
With the government experiencing defeats in the upper chamber on an unprecedented scale, a major clash between the two houses is almost inevitable.
If it does not come about due to welfare cuts, it is likely to be sparked by controversial moves to reduce the role of Scottish MPs in the legislature by bringing in English Votes for English Legislation rules which will restrict decisions on certain matters to just English, or English and Welsh MPs.
Without a written constitution Britain relies on a series of conventions and precedents, some dating back centuries, to govern its parliament.
The Lords is not allowed to vote down a money Bill, and is supposed to be barred from blocking a manifesto commitment as part of the Salisbury Convention.
The Tories do not have a majority in the upper house which is comprised of some 650 party political nominees, 92 hereditary peers, and 26 Church of England bishops.
The Lib Dems say that the way the legislation has been put through the Lords means that, technically, it is not a money Bill and can be struck down.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan warned the Lords not to defy the Commons as MPs had backed the changes three times and an attempt to kill the measure would be “constitutionally unprecedented”.
“They should be very mindful about what they are doing,” she told the BBC.
Lib Dem party leader Tim Farron said peers were “well within their rights” as the Conservatives did not include the cuts in their general election manifesto, and therefore did not have a mandate for them.
Constitutional experts said Tory threats to suspend the Lords would be impossible to carry out.
The Lords has only killed-off such secondary legislation already voted through by the Commons five times since the Second World War.
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