Week ahead

This is a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from slavery abroad, to prostitution, to forestry privatisation, to recall of MPs, to FGM and under consideration in different bills in different houses,

But beyond the usual round of legislating, Westminster vibrates with concern about the rise of assorted political insurgencies across the country - Labour eyes turn anxiously to Scotland, Conservatives to Rochester. It all makes for twitchy whips and destabilised leaders.

Increasingly, MPs are itching to get away to their constituencies, and the relatively thin legislative programme should allow that, particularly now the EU Referendum Bill is dead and seems to have taken the other really controversial private members bill, the Affordable Housing Bill, down with it.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Commons day begins (2.30pm) with work and pensions questions - and that may be followed by the usual Monday batch of urgent questions and ministerial statements.

Then MPs move on to the second day of committee of the whole House consideration of the Recall of MPs Bill. I'm not sure how much they will have to talk about; the defeat of some of Zac Goldsmith's "real recall" amendments to rewrite the bill means that there is little point in pressing the rest of them - and after that, there's not much left.

And any amendments based on the Lib Dem David Heath's ingenious idea of harnessing the concept of misconduct in public office will probably not be ready until the bill reaches report stage.

In the Lords (2.30pm), the main event is the start of the report stage of the Infrastructure Bill. This is the first of three report stage days on this wide ranging bill - and there will be votes on the rules around fracking later on (probably on 10 November). The issues in play are roads and the Strategic Highway Company, road safety (expect a vote on this), rail, and invasive non-native species.

The dinner break debate is on the EU Committee's report on the opt-in to CEPOL, the European Police College, which brings together senior police officers across Europe to encourage cross-border co-operation in the fight against crime.


The day begins with questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer - and the Conservative Fiona Bruce has a ten minute rule bill to outlaw sex-selective abortion.

Then MPs turn to the report and third reading stages of the Modern Slavery Bill - where there will be some interesting action.

First, the government has fulfilled its promise to add new provisions to tackle the issue of slavery in the supply chain abroad for goods and services sold in this country - and Frank Field, the Labour MP who chaired the joint parliamentary committee which scrutinised the bill in draft form, has hailed them as "marvellous - it goes far, far, beyond what most people thought we would be able to get". The new clause lays a duty on companies to ensure the goods they sell in the UK are untainted by slavery and publish an annual report on their efforts.

There's also a series of important amendments from the former Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart and an impressive cross-party group of supporters, outlawing procuring sex for payment and creating a system to assist people out of prostitution - and to repeal section one of the Street Offences Act, which deals with soliciting.

She says that women and children trafficked into sex work are one of the biggest groups of people enslaved in Britain - and she wants to shift the burden of criminality away from them, and onto those buying or seeking to buy sex. It seems unlikely the government will support this - but they may offer to study how similar laws are working in other countries, which might well allow early legislation after the general election.

Over in Westminster Hall there are debates led by backbenchers. The Conservative Neil Parish focuses on meat slaughtered in accordance with religious rites (9.30am - 11am) and Labour's Chris Williamson leads a debate on the assessment of the second year of the badger culls (2.30pm - 4pm).

In the Lords (2.30pm) the main event is the second reading of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, intended to provide extra legal protection against spurious "compensation culture" legal claims.

After taking considerable friendly fire in the Commons, where the Conservative former Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier was particularly savage, it could well be targeted by the large tribe of lawyers in the Lords. Following this there is a debate on the EU Committee's report on the economic impact of UK energy policy of shale gas and oil.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for International Development questions, followed at noon by questions to the Prime Minister.

With Remembrance Day looming, the Labour MP Thomas Docherty has a ten minute rule bill reviving his private members' bill on discrimination against members of the armed forces.

And the day's main debates will be on Labour motions, yet to be announced.

In Westminster Hall, the Labour former cabinet minister Andrew Smith leads a debate on care workers (9.30am - 11am) and the Conservative Simon Hart has a debate on the situation in the dairy industry (2.30pm - 4pm).

In the Lords the main event is the third reading of the Serious Crime Bill, where the main issue outstanding is Female Genital Mutilation. The government may bring forward new clauses on this subject and there's some talk of Labour amendments on the issue, but, at the moment no vote is expected.

After that, peers will move on to the second day of report stage debate on the Infrastructure Bill - the main issues will be protecting forestry from privatisation (a key vote), new towns, and Labour attempts to insert some of the recommendations of the Armitt Review - Sir John Armitt, the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority's review of long term infrastructure planning in the UK, into the bill. Several votes may follow.

The dinner break business is a regret motion from Lord Hunt of King's Heath - Labour's deputy leader - on the Health and Social Care Act 2008 regulations on residential care homes.


The Commons day begins (9.30am) with questions to the energy secretary, followed by the weekly business statement setting out the future agenda of the House.

The day's main debates are on subjects chosen by the Backbench Business Committee: first UK foreign policy towards Iran - led by the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Conservative Richard Bacon - and that's followed by a debate on promotion of the living wage led by the Conservative Chris White.

In Westminster Hall, meanwhile there will be a debate on the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement - a bilateral treaty on nuclear weapons cooperation, which is due for renewal next year. The debate is led by the slightly unlikely duo of Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, and the Conservative defence expert Julian Lewis.

In the Lords (from 11am) the main debates are chosen by Labour backbenchers: first from Oona King on women facing homelessness, domestic violence and social exclusion; and the second from Larry Whitty on the cumulative effects of the government's economic, public spending and regulatory policies on low income and vulnerable consumers. The lunch break topical debate is on a question from Baroness Kinnock on the international response to Ebola.


It's private members' bill day in the Commons (9.30am) - and the first on this list is the second reading of the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, proposed by the Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, directly as a result of the experience of the Staffordshire NHS scandal.

His bill would give stronger powers to the government to insist on high safety standards, by for example requiring the Care Quality Commission to inspect safety standards, rather than simply giving them the power to do so, if they choose. The bill also includes measures requiring a more rigorous approach to safety in NHS organisations. Mr Lefroy says many of the measures he wants to see would happen anyway, in the best NHS organisations; the idea is to ensure they happen everywhere. The bill has government support and Mr Lefroy has kept in close touch with Labour, too.

Second on the agenda is the Off-patent Drugs Bill - promoted by the Conservative Jonathan Evans.

In the Lords, (from 10am) there's detailed committee stage debate on the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill - so far there are around 40 amendments down, but many of them should be dealt with as groups, rather than be debated one by one - so Lord Falconer is not screaming "filibuster!" At least not yet.

It may be that a further day of committee stage debate will be needed, but at the moment the bill looks set fair to reach its final stages in the Lords in January. Even so the real obstacle is not the House of Lords, but the Commons, where there is no guarantee it will even be debated.