Week ahead at Westminster
- 7 April 2014
- From the section UK Politics
There's still time for a soupcon of high-powered politics as MPs and peers prepare to decamp for their Easter break.
In the Commons the main debates are around the detail of the Finance Bill, and will mostly be rather ritualistic - but may be enlivened by the prospect of a bit of Coalition infighting over the tax breaks for marriage.
Over in the Lords, the Immigration Bill could get a filleting on a couple of issues.
And after this week's addition of the word "muppet" to the cannon of acceptable parliamentary insults, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next PMQs may bring.
Here's my rundown of next week:
Monday 7 April
The Commons meets at 2.30pm for communities and local government questions - and, as usual on a Monday there's a good chance of a ministerial statement of urgent question on some issue that has emerged over the weekend.
The main event is a general debate on justice and home affairs - expect big picture issues around the UK's block opt out from EU justice and home affairs powers, the state of the Police, particularly the Met, and possibly a revisiting of the case of the deported student Yashika Badeerathi (The case will also be raised with the Home Secretary at the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday).
In the Lords (from 2.30pm) the main business will be the final day of report stage consideration of the Immigration Bill - the key issues include guardians for trafficked children - a formidable-looking amendment signed by Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former president of the Family Division of the High Court, plus the Conservative Lord McColl, the Lib Dem super-lawyer, Lord Carlile and the Labour leader, Baroness Royall.
The amendment would require special guardians to be appointed for all potential child victims of human trafficking who come to the attention of the authorities.
The guardian would do everything from accompanying the child to police interviews to ensuring proper care and legal representation.
And there's another big amendment signed by the Crossbencher Lord Pannick (my nomination for the single most influential backbench peer) Labour's Lady Smith of Basildon, the Lib Dem Lord MacDonald a former Director of Public Prosecutions, and the former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.
This kicks into touch the proposals to allow people to be deprived of UK citizenship, by setting up a committee of six MPs and six peers to consider the issue and make recommendations.
Lord Pannick has quite a hit-rate in amending government bills, not least because he tends to mobilise the swing voters in the upper house - the Crossbenchers. And there are further amendments dealing with removal of citizenship where it would result in statelessness, and on fees.
And as if that wasn't enough high-powered politics for one day, the dinner break debate is on the balance between regular and reserve forces in the Armed Forces - with the former Chief of the General Staff, Lord Dannatt likely to repeat his recent warnings about the extent of defence cuts and the need to deploy forces to deter President Putin.
Tuesday 8 April
The Commons opens at 11.30am for Foreign Office questions.
The Labour MP Hugh Bayley has a Ten Minute Rule Bill on a patient's right to treatment in the NHS - it would guarantee a right to receive medical treatment prescribed by a doctor, unless it was not approved by the health secretary or the NHS watchdog, NICE.
It would also provide a register of cases where treatment was denied and an appeal mechanism for patients.
Then it's on to the Finance Bill, which enacts the measures announced in the Budget.
By venerable Commons tradition this is discussed in detail by a committee of the whole house and Labour (in the persons of Ed Balls and his shadow Treasury team) have put down a series of amendments requiring the Chancellor to report on the impact of the key measures - the Corporation Tax cut, the effect of higher rate of income tax cut, the childcare tax relief, etc.
And Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Evans has an amendment on air passenger duty in Wales.
The one to watch will be the amendment on tax relief for marriages and civil partnerships, where the Liberal Democrats are not on board, which could make theCommons arithmetic dicey for the Chancellor.
In Westminster Hall (from 9.30am) there is the usual series of backbench debates, with, with the Conservative Andrew Jones leading a debate on broadband in the north of England.
That's followed at 11am by half an hour on anti-social behaviour and the renting of houses for stag and hen parties.
Poole MP Robert Syms will be raising the increasing problem of big houses being specially covered to be party venues, leading to problems with late night noise and parking.
He wants to know if existing anti-social behaviour legislation be applied or whether some other controls are needed.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas has the 2.30 - 4pm slot for a debate on setting up a Military Credit Union - to provide inexpensive loans to armed forces personnel and their families. There is an arrangement of this kind in the US and he put forward a private members bill to set one up here.
In the Lords (with an adjournment to allow peers to hear the visiting Irish President's speech) the main event will be "ping-pong," the Consideration of Commons amendments to the Pensions Bill.
At issue will be the government defeat in February over allowing an individual to tot up their income from two or more jobs within a year, in order to qualify for a state pension.
No amendments are being offered to the Commons, after they overturned that vote.
Then peers will move onto the third reading of the Water Bill, where no votes are expected.
Wednesday 9 April
In the Commons (from 11.30am) business opens with international development questions, followed, at noon by prime minister's question time.
The Conservative Bill Wiggin has a Ten Minute Rule Bill to require the Health and Safety Executive to keep records of agricultural accidents and produce an annual report.
Next MPs resume the committee stage of the Finance Bill.
The day ends with an adjournment debate led by the Conservative Fiona Bruce on abortion on the ground of disability.
In Westminster Hall (2.30 - 4pm) there's a debate on rural crime led by the Conservative, Gordon Henderson.
The Lords (from 11am) have debates on higher education and the Maastricht convergence criteria - after which they begin their Easter break, from which they will not return until May 6th.
Thursday 10 April
MPs begin their last day of term with business, innovation and skills questions in the Commons at 9.30am.
That is followed by the weekly business statement from the Leader of the House, setting out what they will be doing when they return from their holiday.
The rest of the day is allocated to backbench business, starting with a statement from Bernard Jenkin the chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, launching their latest report: "Caught red-handed: Why we can't count on Police recorded crime statistics."
One theme within it may be that a police whistle-blower, who gave evidence to his committee on how crime statistics could be manipulated, has since been forced to resign.
Then MPs hold the traditional end of term debate in which they can make a speech about any topic that takes their fancy.
This tends to be used as an opportunity to raise local issues like the future of an A&E or the need for a bypass.
The Backbench Business Committee has experimented, in the past, with trying to group these speeches according to theme, so that, for example, a health minister would be on hand to reply to a section of the debate devoted to health topics.
But on this occasion they seem to have reverted to the old format, where you just get several hours of speeches without grouping.
Part of the reason, I'm told, is that too much time would otherwise be taken up by ministerial replies.
In Westminster Hall (1.30- 4.30pm) there's a debate on the police response to domestic violence.
And after that, Parliament is in recess until Monday April 28th, when MPs (but not peers) return, with a bang, for the second reading debate on the HS2 Bill.