Week ahead

There may well be appearances by exotic species like the Eurasian Beaver, or even defenders of Tony Blair, but overall, this is a week that sags in the middle.

You never know what events might force a ministerial statement or urgent question - but at the moment the most interesting action in Parliament next week looks to be packed into Monday, when both Houses will be processing some very big issues.

It may also be worth watching the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, which may well be the first of any number of bills devolving taxes to the nations and regions, but the main point of interest later on will be the debate on the delay in the report of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, on Thursday.

Image copyright Science Photos Library
Image caption European beavers were found all across Europe and Asia until the beginning of the 20th Century when numbers in the wild were estimated at around 1,000.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead.


The Commons day begins at 2.30pm with an hour of work and pensions questions - and any ministerial statements or urgent questions approved by Mr Speaker at his morning meeting will follow from 3.30pm.

If a substantial amount of time is eaten up by statements or UQs, expect some angry protests when MPs move on to their main debates - on the report stage and third reading of the Infrastructure Bill.

Major amendments on planning rules for mobile phone masts have been pulled - but there remain some huge issues to be debated in quite limited time.

Above all there are all kinds of amendments on fracking - the controversial process for extracting gas from solid rock far underground. There are amendments calling for varying degrees of restriction on fracking - but the key one may well turn out to be from the members of the Environmental Audit Select Committee.

That committee is due to publish a report on fracking from a quick and dirty mini-inquiry held last week; unusually they have rather pre-announced their conclusion in their amendment, by calling for a moratorium on fracking, on the argument that it will result in more carbon emissions and thus more global warming, at a time when they believe proven fossil fuel reserves cannot be extracted and burnt if the rise in global temperatures is to be kept below 2 degrees.

There are now murmurings that the government could be defeated on its proposed framework for fracking....watch this space.

There are also major amendments on cycling - with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin proposing the first ever national cycling strategy, and regular progress reports, following pressure from the impressive All Party Parliamentary Group, which conducted a report on promoting cycling, with backing from The Times newspaper. This marks another important success for APPGs in this Parliament, where several - notably Elfyn Lwydd's Stalking Group - have managed to achieve significant changes to the law or government policy.

And there's plenty more in the bill - with amendments on the status of the Highways Agency, air quality, habitat protection and even the Eurasian Beaver due for debate.

The day will end with an adjournment debate on UK support for Pakistan after the massacre in Peshawar - led by the Conservative Rehman Chishti.

In the Lords (2.30pm), it's the first of the final two committee stage days on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - where the big development is an 18-page cross party amendment on data-gathering and retention by the Security Services from four senior peers: Lord King of Bridgewater, a Conservative former Defence Secretary; the crossbencher and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair of Boughton; the Labour former security minister Lord West of Spithead, and the Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile of Berriew, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

There are already accusations that they're effectively re-introducing the so-called "Snoopers Charter" after it was emphatically rejected by a joint parliamentary committee on the Communications Data Bill and there's bound to be quite a row when it is debated.

TPIMS (Terrorism Prevention Orders) will also be debated - with a series of amendments from Lib Dem Peers Baroness Hamwee, Baroness Ludford and Lord Paddick.


The Commons opens at 11.30am with Treasury questions, to be followed by a ten minute rule bill on Voter Registration, from Labour's Chris Ruane. Labour are concerned that the switch to individual (rather than "head of household") voter registration has led to many thousands of people dropping off the electoral register.

The day's main legislation is the second reading of the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill - which will allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to set its own Corporation Tax rate, allowing it to be more competitive with the rate across the border, in the Republic.

One interesting nuance to this is that if the rate is cut in Northern Ireland, central government is prevented by EU competition law from topping up the funding for Northern Ireland to make up for it.... so Assembly Members must hope that the lower rate will prompt extra job creation, and hence more revenue, but they will probably have to cut their spending in the meantime.

That is followed by a Backbench Business Committee debate on accommodation for young people in care - following this report from the Education Select Committee - Chair Graham Stuart leads proceedings.

In Westminster Hall, the two main debates are on Employment in Wales (9.30am - 11am) and on Commonwealth immigration and visas (2.30pm - 4pm).

In the Lords from 2.30pm it's the report stage of the Pension Schemes Bill. The main issues will be the "second line of defence" against pensions mis-selling, and eligibility for income-related benefits with the new pension assets.

And during their dinner break, peers will debate recent events in Eritrea and Ethiopia and the impact on migration to Western Europe - Lib Dem Lord Chidgey leads.


The Commons kicks off with Northern Ireland questions (11.30am), to be followed at noon by prime minister's question time. Assuming there are no statements or urgent questions, the Conservative Laura Sandys will then present a ten minute rule bill to require rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

The day's main debate will be on an Opposition motion to be announced.

In the Lords from 3pm, the main business will be the third day of detailed committee stage discussion of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. Key issues will be the PREVENT strategy, "channel panels" and the Protection of Civil Liberties Board.


The Commons (at 9.30am) kicks off with a series of mini question times, starting with half an hour for environment, food and rural affairs, before giving the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission their moment of glory.

After the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, William Hague, the main debates of the day are on subjects chosen by the Backbench Business Committee.

The first is on the delays in the report of the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry. This was agreed before the announcement that its report would not be published before the General Election, so the focus may now be on summoning Sir John Chilcot before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to explain the delay in reporting.

And expect a lot of spleen venting about public inquiries in general, as well as plenty of attempts to revisit the underlying arguments about the Iraq war.

The second debate will be on financial support for restoration of opencast coal sites, led by Labour MP Madeleine Moon.

The day ends with an interesting archaeological issue to be raised in the adjournment, the wreck of HMS Victory 1744 - this is the battleship which bore the famous name before Nelson's flagship. Its remains have been discovered in the Channel, and there has since been some debate about the terms under which the wreckage will be recovered. Labour's Kevan Jones - a former defence minister - will discuss its fate.

In Westminster Hall (1.30pm - 4.30pm) MPs will have a chance to debate two important select committee reports and the formal responses from ministers. First is the Home Affairs Select Committee's report on Female Genital Mutilation: the Case for a National Action Plan.

And that will be followed by the Science and Technology Committee report After the Storm? UK blood Safety and Risk of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

In the Lords (11am) the first clutch of main debates will be on subjects chosen by Conservative peers. These are the government's support for British exports; and on the progress of the government's school reforms. Then former Liberal leader Lord Steel leads a debate on the Commons resolution of 13 October on recognising the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

Neither House will sit on Friday.