Plots, devices and stratagems

Summer time, and the plotting is easy. The phones of the politterati will be glowing red hot, with everything from full-on leadership plotting to legislative scheming.

And there's even plenty of jockeying for position on the committee corridor.

I'll do a more detailed preview of events closer to the return of honourable members and noble lords - but I thought it was worth flagging up some of what is going on.

When MPs return in September, they'll be straight back into very serious politics with the report and third reading stages of the EU Referendum Bill. You'll remember that the government defused a backbench rebellion on this measure over the rules for "purdah" (restrictions on government activities in the run-up to a vote) by promising new amendments to meet the concerns of potential rebels.

One straw in the wind is the letter from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (prop. uber-sceptic Bernard Jenkin) to the Europe Minister, David Lidington.

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Week ahead

It's the final two and a half days before MPs and peers head off for their summer break...but they're cramming a lot of action in. There's some high politics around the Work and Welfare Bill, and it may be that the new Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron will make his debut before the summer.

And watch out for moves in the Lords to set up a Joint Committee on EVEL, which would add a significant complication to what is already turning into a rather fraught saga for the government.

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Two retreats...and a new problem

With two strategic retreats in the space of a week, the intersection of Hunting and English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) is generating some really interesting politics.

Image caption Anti-foxhunting protesters have been demonstrating outside Parliament

Last week, the government paused its attempt to bring in EVEL, replacing a vote on Wednesday with a consultative debate.

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Week ahead

The last full Westminster week before the summer break is a pretty busy one, with plenty of important action in both houses.

MPs have the conclusion of the Budget debate, what promises to be a highly-charged debate on EVEL - English Votes for English Laws - and a chance to revisit a golden oldie controversy, in the shape of hunting.

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The government blinks first

There's the substance and then there's the psychology.

And today's government retreat on English Votes for English Laws - it won't be put to the vote next week, and there'll be a two-day "taking the voices debate" on draft proposals, to be followed by a vote on final proposals in the Autumn - shows ministers in a tangle over both.

Image caption The Leader of the House, flanked on the green benches by Chief Whip Mark Harper, and deputy Leader Therese Coffey

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No walk in the park

Panic stations? From the point of view of the government whips this afternoon's emergency Commons debate on English Votes for English Laws was really rather alarming.

The debate so skilfully secured by Lib Dem ex Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael, produced a slightly pointless vote in which the Conservatives mostly abstained, but it brought all kinds of nasty tensions to the surface.

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Week ahead

It's Budget week, which means that the first couple of days are devoted to parliamentary loose ends, chores and time-marking, until the Chancellor rises from his seat on Wednesday.

Image caption This will be George Osborne's first Budget as a Chancellor for a majority Tory government

So MPs will round off their detailed consideration of the Scotland Bill (watch out for the cross-party amendment on powers over abortion) and debate some, as yet, unannounced Opposition motions. All of which will leave time for plenty of ferment, plotting and manoeuvre. And there's plenty going on in the undergrowth.

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Freedom to fine?

One of the over-arching constitutional principles of the UK - set down in the 1688 Bill of Rights is this: "That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament."

I wonder if anyone's mentioned this to the European Court of Human Rights, who seem to be in the process of setting rather an interesting precedent.

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Summer lull

When will the Commons network of select committees be up and running and scrutinising ministers?

Tonight another piece of the jigsaw will fall into place when Labour MPs elect colleagues to places on the various committees (the Conservatives have already done so) - but then the House will have to go through the formalities of setting the committees. A motion will have to go on the Order Paper and will probably be waved through without debate.

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Week ahead

Deck chairs in Green Park

Summer time, and the legislating is easy; two Commons days of Scottish detail, one Opposition Day and a general debate on international security.

And a not dissimilar week in the Lords. It's the calm before George Osborne unleashes his Budget the following week.

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