Week ahead

With the Commons long gone, the final three days of parliamentary action before the Lords followed them into the summer holidays looked pretty humdrum - until the controversy over the reshuffle flared up and motion was put down for peers to debate on Monday evening. Peers are clearly pretty miffed about the downgrading of the leadership of the Lords from full cabinet rank and even a soothing letter to the Conservative peers from David Cameron has not mollified them.

Other than that, the week will be dominated by detailed debate on the Government's proposals to reform the system of Judicial Review.

As for the holidays - given the variety of crises across the world at the moment, no-one is ruling out the possibility that parliament may be recalled in August.

Here's my rundown of the week:

Monday July 28th

The Lords meet at 2.30pm and the most exciting item on the agenda is the final one, a motion from the former Speaker of the Commons, Lady Boothroyd , weighing in on the controversy over the non-Cabinet status of the new Leader of the Lords, Lady Stowell - this is the first time in history that the Upper House has not had a single full cabinet member sitting there, and there's no doubt that this has annoyed peers across the House. Freely translated, her motion says that peers are jolly cross and the PM ought to rethink.

At a guess, the debate will start at about 8.30pm and will last about an hour. And feelings are running sufficiently high that the normal Lords assumption, that nothing controversial happens after the dinner break, may be suspended for the occasion. None of the parties are whipping, but I'm told Government ministers in the Lords (Lib Dems and well as Conservatives) will vote in support of the Leader, if she decides to vote at all.

Before that, the main legislation on offer is the fourth Committee day on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, where the focus will be on the proposals on Judicial Review based on the Justice Secretary's 2013 consultation 'Judicial Review: Proposals for further reform' - which led to recommendations on several issues:

  • holding judicial reviews dealing with minor defects in the performance of public functions that would have made no difference to the final outcome - for example some error in consultation procedures for a major infrastructure project.
  • speeding up appeals to the Supreme Court in important cases.
  • a new specialist "planning chamber" for challenges relating to major developments with expert judges using streamlined processes.

Expect considerable interest from the legion of top lawyers and former judges who sit in the Lords.

During the dinner break there will be a short debate on the response to the Farrell Review of architecture and the built environment tabled by Baroness Whitaker, with a response from Lord Gardiner of Kimble.

Tuesday July 29th

The Lords meet at 2.30pm where the main event will be the Report Stage debate on the Armed Forces (Complaints) Bill. The key issues centre on the Ombudsman. Labour will press the Government on giving the Ombudsman wider powers to allow thematic investigations (for example into patterns of bullying or discrimination). This was to be followed by two Statutory Instruments on Same Sex Marriage (conversion of civil partnerships) - but after pressure from Labour's Lady Glenys Thornton they've been postponed.

The issue was that the process proposed was purely form-filling, with no provision for a ceremony, which many people might want. And there was also concern that the process had to be conducted by a senior registrar - which could have led to people having to travel long distances.

The two Sis have now been pulled, and revised versions will be debated in the autumn, and all sides say they should be in place, as promised, by December.

Wednesday July 30th

The House will convene at 11am for its fifth Committee day on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - where the debate on Judicial Review will continue.

Over in the Moses Room there are a couple of interesting-looking short debates - on establishing an independent review of Channel Tunnel security and on encouraging music education for children with physical disabilities.

One other parliamentary event of note will be the latest round of interviews for the final three candidates to be the next Clerk of the Commons, succeeding Sir Robert Rodgers, who will leave the post at the end of August.

And after that, peers follow MPs off to their summer holidays - but while the Commons returns in September, Their Lordships are not scheduled to return to their Chamber until Monday, October 13.