- 8 December 2012
- From the section UK Politics
It doesn't look like we can expect a week of drama in the main chambers of Parliament - but I'm increasingly noticing the kind of issues backbenchers in both Houses are keen to raise in short debates, mini-bills and adjournments.
Over the last year they have frequently presaged some serious push to change government policy or reshape legislation… so keep an eye on the issues being raised in those Ten Minute Rule Bills, in particular.
Monday begins (at 2.30pm) with Work and Pension Questions - where the recent figures on the efficacy of the government's flagship Work Programme look certain to feature. Then, assuming no ministerial questions or urgent statements intervene, MPs move on to consider Lords' amendments to the Financial Services Bill - including the government's response to amendments capping the interest payable on payday loans, brought in under pressure from peers.
And the Commons day ends with an adjournment debate led by Conservative Charles Walker on schizophrenia care - he has spoken in the chamber about his own mental health issues and was one of the key backers of the recent private member's bill on mental health discrimination.
In the Lords (from 2.30pm) question time covers the effect on the UK economy of "fiscal cliff" spending cuts and tax rises which will come into effect in the US if Congress and the President fail to agree a budget deal; and the EU's planned regulation of banking.
Then peers move on to the third day of report stage discussion of the Crime and Courts Bill, where it's expected there'll be early evening votes on community sentencing - but at the moment there isn't the kind of distant fizz that suggests a brewing government defeat. But watch this space.
The dinner time debate, led by the Lib Dem, Lord Teverson, is on the government's strategy for energy. And meanwhile, over in Grand Committee (from 3.30pm) - the Lords equivalent of Westminster Hall, where business can be discussed but not voted on - the committee stage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill rolls on. There seems to be a certain amount of Labour goading of the BIS Minister Lord Marland, who's leading for the government.
Tuesday in the Commons begins (at 11.30am) with Treasury questions and after an hour there's a Ten Minute Rule Bill from the Conservative, Chris Skidmore, to give communities a right of appeal against planning decisions if the signatures of a percentage of the electorate in the local council ward are collected - a bit of localist guerrilla action. The main debate is a post Autumn Statement joust on the economy - so a long Commons day for Treasury ministers.
Over in Westminster Hall there are a series of backbench debates (from 9.30am to 5pm) on subjects ranging from the deployment of drones to the governance of Britain's overseas territories
In the Lords, (from 2.30pm) the day's questions to ministers range across badger culls, and preventing companies with significant operations in the UK from being based in a tax havens to avoid tax. And after that peers devote most of the rest of their day to rushing through the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill, in a single gulp. This is the bill to provide extra powers for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to compel serving officers to give evidence in its inquiry into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
On Wednesday (from 11.30am) MPs have questions to the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, followed by PMQs, at noon.
Then there's a Ten Minute Rule Bill from Labour's Phil Wilson, to ensure planning applications for onshore wind farms producing 50 megawatts or more, are decided by local planning authorities. More guerrilla localism?
After which the main debates are first an Opposition day motion on a subject yet to be announced, and then a Backbench Business Committee debate on Church of England Synod's recent vote on women bishops. This debate was secured by Ben Bradshaw, who's a member of Parliament's Ecclesiastical Committee - the body which processes law changes relating to the Church of England, as the state religion. Quite a lot of MPs want to weigh in on this subject and to maintain the pressure for the Synod to reverse its decision and allow women to serve as bishops in the near future.
In Westminster Hall (from 9.30am to 5pm) the backbench debates cover food poverty in the run up to Christmas and literacy and drug conditions and custodial sentences.
In the Lords, peers convene at 3pm - and ministers will face questions on a 50 milligram blood alcohol limit for drivers aged under 21 and a register of lobbyists. Then peers turn to the fourth report stage day on the Crime and Courts Bill - again there's not much chatter about an organised rebellion but there are outstanding concerns on public order issues.
Thursday (from 9.30am) finds MPs questioning the Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey and his internal opposition in the form of Energy Minister John Hayes. Expect considerable attention to be given to the government's "dash for gas" and planned regulator to control "fracking" the controversial technique for extracting shale gas from sub-surface rock.
The main business of the day is a motion to appoint non MPs - "Lay Members" - to their ethics watchdog, the Committee on Standards. And that is followed by a Backbench Business Committee debate on live animal exports and animal welfare.
In Westminster Hall from 1.30pm, MPs have a chance to debate the annual report by a special select committee on arms exports and the government response to it.
In the Lords (from 11am) peers have questions on the proportion of successful candidates for police and crime commissioner posts who were politically independent; and steps to ensure energy companies offer customers the lowest tariff. Then there are debates led by backbench peers on credit unions, discrimination against Israel's Arab citizens and the Winterbourne View care home and abuse suffered by people with learning disabilities. Disability campaigner Lord Rix is leading that last one.
On Friday the Commons will not be sitting. But in the Lords (from 10am) there's a debate on the place and contribution of older people in society led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.