Week ahead

There's a bitty, humdrum flavour to the coming week's parliamentary business - with MPs and peers finishing off assorted bills, processing assorted statutory instruments and looking forward to their half term, which begins at the close of play on Thursday.

The biggest legislative flashpoint looks like being the report stage debate on the Recall of MPs Bill in the Lords on Wednesday, and elsewhere there are some interesting-looking backbench, adjournment and Westminster Hall debates...

Here's my rundown of the week.


The Commons kicks off (2.30pm) with Home Office questions - and, as ever, any post weekend urgent questions or ministerial statements are normally taken at 3.30pm.

The main business is a series of motions to approve Social Security Benefits Up-Rating and Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase orders, and orders on Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments and Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers' Compensation).

The adjournment debate, led by the DUP's Ian Paisley is an intriguing one: he is attempting to get the Department of Transport to require flights entering and leaving the UK to make announcements when someone with a peanut allergy is on board. There is an issue about children with peanut allergies getting hold of and eating nuts - and becoming seriously ill, so he wants them to make a safety announcement to ask passengers to take care.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm), the first business is the introduction of the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Reverend Nick Holtam who will take his seat on the Bishops' Bench.

The main event is the third reading of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. Peers will be listening carefully for ministerial reassurances about the impact of provisions on extremism in universities on academic freedom , but no vote is expected.

Then peers move on to look at Commons amendments to the Infrastructure Bill - some important changes were made in the Commons, where the government accepted a series of Labour amendments on the rules for fracking, a cycling strategy special control orders, mayoral development orders and (of course) on control of the Eurasian Beaver. No votes are expected on these issues.


MPs kick off (11.30am) with questions to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. This might just be his last despatch box appearance of this Parliament - he is due to appear again on 24 March, but Parliament might have been dissolved by then, if all legislation has been cleared and the Budget dealt with.

There's also a mini-question time for the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright.

Then the Conservative Oliver Colvile has a ten minute rule bill. The Tuition Fee (Transparency and Accountability) Bill would require universities to report to tuition fee payers how their money is treated and spend.

MPs then debate motions to approve Police and Local Government grants. This tends to turn into a whinge-athon of special pleading for the problems in particular constituencies.

And MPs will also respond to Lords amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.... which won't include the new data retention powers (AKA the "Snoopers' Charter") some peers tried, unsuccessfully to include in the bill. But watch out for markers from the government and Opposition on this issue.

In Westminster Hall the big morning debate (9.30am - 11am) is on Allied Steel and Wire pensions - once a big employer in Cardiff, Sheerness and Belfast, the company went into receivership in 2002, and shortly afterwards, it was announced that its pension scheme was being wound up. Conservative MP Gordon Henderson opens the debate.

Labour MP Iain McKenzie leads a debate in the afternoon (2.30pm-4pm) on the introduction of a national maximum wage.

(Incidentally a debate on local suicide prevention plans, based on the work of an All-Party Group and originally timed for 2.30pm - 4pm has had to be postponed because the Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon, who was due to lead it has to attend a bill committee. She and other members of the group are trying to reschedule.)

In the Lords from 2.30pm, after questions, the main legislative action is the detailed report stage debate on the Recall of MPs Bill. There was some biting criticism of this bill during its committee stage and unsurprisingly there are a few amendments down which would significantly alter the proposals - notably from Lords Norton, Tyler, Alton and Lexden which would take the Commons Standards Committee out of the recall process altogether, so that a ruling that an MP should be suspended from the House would no longer be considered a possible trigger for a recall petition.

That would leave conviction for any offence as a potential trigger for the recall process.

Other issues in play include the number of places to be provided for signing petitions, "equality of arms" in campaign expenditure, declared openness of the petition and the number of days suspension that could result in an recall petition. Lord Campbell Savours has an amendment to double the length of suspension from the House which would open an MP up to Recall from 10 days to 20.

During the dinner break there will be a short debate on local welfare assistance schemes led by the Bishop of Truro.


In the Commons, proceedings open (11.30am) with Cabinet Office questions - perhaps a last hurrah at the despatch box for minister Francis Maude - possibly the most important minister you've never heard of - who has played a huge, and at times highly controversial, role in reshaping the machinery of government. He's announced he will stand down at the next election.

Prime minister's question, at noon, includes an unusual specific question from Graham Allen, the Labour MP who chairs the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee: "If he will commission a new Magna Carta to renew democracy in the UK as part of the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta; and if he will make a statement." This is designed to highlight the draft written constitution produced by his committee.

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray will then present a ten minute rule bill on Job Creation Powers (Scotland) which would devolve control of the Work Programme to the Scottish Parliament.

The day's main debates are on Labour motions on Labour's job guarantee and on tax avoidance.

There's also a slot set aside for the consideration of any Lords' amendments as various bills ping-pong between the Lords and Commons to get agreement on their final wording.

In Westminster Hall (9.30am - 11am), the big morning debate is on the operation of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme, led by Labour MP Steve Rotheram who has taken a long-term interest in the issue.

And in the afternoon (2.30pm - 4pm) Conservative MP and military historian, Keith Simpson, leads a debate on the lessons from the war in Afghanistan.

In the Lords from 3pm, the main legislation is the final half-day of report stage consideration of the Deregulation Bill - key issues start off with the delayed votes on the economic growth duties on the ECHR and another amendment more generally, CCTV and parking; and short term letting in London.

Then peers will whiz through all stages of consideration of the Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill - which enacts the changes promised in the Autumn Statement.


The Commons (9.30am) opens with Business, Innovation and Skills questions, which will be followed by the weekly Business Statement, in which the Leader of the House announces forthcoming debates.

The rest of the day is devoted to three debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. The first, on pubs and planning legislation, is on a motion calling for the government to bring in tougher planning regulations, so that full planning permission must be sought to demolish a pub building or change its use. Greg Mulholland, who led the successful effort to introduce new controls on pub companies, leads the debate.

Then the Conservative Robert Jenrick opens a debate on the destruction and looting of historic sites in Syria and Iraq, to be followed by Dianne Abbott on the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners.

It's then trebles all round for the adjournment debate from Lib Dem Alan Reid, on the economic contribution of Scotch whisky industry.

In Westminster Hall, Labour MP Andy Slaughter raises the effect of national infrastructure projects on local redevelopment (1.30pm - 4.30pm).

In the Lords (from 11am) the main business is the second reading of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill - the measure to allow the fast-tracking of women bishops onto the Bishops' Bench in the House.

Then Labour peer Baroness Wheeler has a motion to take note of 17 "negative instruments" relating to care and support, laid before the House between 24 and 31 October 2014 - including on care and support; charging and assessment of resources; eligibility for care; and on after-care issues.

"Negative instruments" are regulations which flesh out laws, which are not debated, but can be struck down by a vote of either House - as opposed to affirmative instruments, which do require approval. The day is likely to finish fairly early.

And after that peers and MPs take a half term break, returning on 23 February.