Look ahead

There will be some pretty meaty legislating this week, on serious crime and modern slavery, with amendments on issues like leaking information to child abuse investigations and the protection of journalists' sources likely to provoke intense debate.

But as Parliament winds down, there's a certain element of "pick up sticks and lay them straight" about a lot of the business before the Commons, in particular.

MPs will vote on a bill to revamp the internal administration of the House, and on various proposed tweaks to the conduct of Commons business - the one on the handling of e-petitions is probably the most interesting.

And watch out for another ill-tempered Friday in the Lords, if opponents of the International Development Bill attempt another ambush against it. A deluge of amendments were put down at the last minute before its committee stage, and it's possible the same may happen again before the report stage on Friday 27th...

Here's my rundown of the week after half-term.

Monday 23 February

The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Defence Questions - and that will be followed by a statement from David Cameron on Thursday's mini-summit of European leaders, the first to be attended by the new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Not being a member of the Euro, the UK had a pretty peripheral role in talks about Greece, so the prime minister is expected to focus on the other main issue under discussion, the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of further sanctions against Russia. There may be other statements or urgent questions after that. But the more there are, the less time will be available for the next business.

And time could be a crucial issue when the day's main legislating begins. It will be the report and third reading stages of the Serious Crime Bill and there are some important amendments on offer - for a start, more than a hundred backbenchers, led by the Conservative Fiona Bruce, have signed one aimed at banning sex-selective abortions.

Lib Dem Julian Huppert has two amendments down on the protection of journalist sources and privileged information; the key one (New Clause 4) would require a judge to give permission before the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) could be used to investigate journalists' sources. It has heavyweight backing from the Keith Vaz Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Alan Beith, Chair of the Justice Committee, Conservatives like David Davis and Dominic Raab, UKIP's Mark Reckless, the Greens' Caroline Lucas, and Labour anti-hacking campaigner Tom Watson.

Elsewhere, the government is proposing a new duty on healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers to notify the police if they discover that female genital mutilation appears to have been carried out on a girl under 18, the Labour MP John Mann, with cross party support, proposes creating a new Official Secrets Act defence for releasing information to a historic child abuse investigation and the Plaid Cymru leader Elfyn Llwyd has amendments on the abduction of and cruelty to vulnerable children aged sixteen or seventeen.

There will also be some tidying-up amendments in Conservative former minister Sir Paul Beresford's long campaign for tougher controls on child sex offenders, with some last minute changes to restrictions on the literature they can access.

In Westminster Hall (4.30pm - 7.30pm) there's a general debate on an e-petition on ending non-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare, led by the Conservative, Philip Hollobone.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) the main event is the report stage of the Modern Slavery Bill - and there are a lot of detailed amendments to sharpen and widen the powers in the bill - one of the key proposals, from the Labour former minister Lord Warner would create a National Referral Mechanism to identify trafficked, enslaved or exploited people, provide assistance and support, and ensure their rights are protected.

Another amendment from the Crossbencher Lord Hylton, but also supported by the Labour Leader, Lady Royall and the Bishop of Carlisle focuses on the rights of one key group vulnerable to being treated as slaves, - overseas domestic workers, including those working for staff of diplomatic missions. It would guarantee their right to change their employer (but not work sector) while in the UK, and to a three month temporary visa to stay here, while seeking alternative employment where there is evidence that the worker has been a victim of modern slavery."

And there will also be a short debate on hotels and facilities for disabled people.

Tuesday 24 February

The Commons opens at 11.30am with Health Questions - where pre-electoral tension is increasingly obvious.

Former Conservative whip and well known bird-watcher Sir John Randall has a Ten Minute Rule Bill on "Nature" - among other things, his bill would set biodiversity targets and require local councils to maintain local ecological network strategies.

Then MPs will be asked to rattle through a series of issues - starting with consideration of Lords amendments to the Pension Schemes Bill.

Next they'll take in a single gulp, the House of Commons Commission Bill - this is the measure which resulted from the kerfuffle over the attempted appointment of Carol Mills as the new Clerk of the Commons. That brought a number of issues about the internal administration of the House to the surface, and this bill makes the changes necessary to implement the report of a special select committee under Jack Straw, which were accepted after a debate earlier this year. The bill is necessary to bring in more outside members of the House of Commons Commission, the administrative arm of the Commons and reform its Management Board.

And that will be followed by debates on several reports from the Procedure Committee on various aspects of the working of the Commons - Business in Westminster Hall, the Queen's and Prince of Wales's consent (which is needed for discussion of issues impinging on the Royal Prerogative and on the way the House handles e-petitions where no-one is happy with the uncomfortable hybrid system that currently operates.

The expectation seems to be that the House will rattle through this lot pretty rapidly, leaving time for a Backbench Business debate on mental health and unemployment led by the Lib Dem former Health Minister Paul Burstow, along with two MPs who've revealed their own experience of mental health issues, Kevan Jones and Charles Walker.

In Westminster Hall (9.30am), Labour MP Keith Vaz will lead a debate on Yemen.

It's a similarly bitty day in the Lords (from 2.30pm) where peers will take a detailed look at the Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Bill - a measure to curb forgery and fraud by organised crime, before turning to Commons amendments to the Consumer Rights Bill.

The main event looks like the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 - the legislation which will permit so-called "three parent babies," allowing mitochondrial DNA to be added to embryos to prevent a series of hereditary diseases including muscular dystrophy. Lord Deben, AKA Thatcher-era Cabinet Minister John Gummer has put down a "Fatal Amendment" which would kill the Order.

There will also be a short debate on concerns expressed by local authorities in England and Wales over the growth of high street betting machines.

Wednesday 25 February

The Commons kicks off at 11.30am with Scottish Questions, followed by Prime Minister's Question Time, at noon.

Labour's Debbie Abrahams has a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the Employment of People with Disabilities (Reporting) - requiring listed companies, public bodies and voluntary agencies to report on the number and percentage of disabled people they employ.

The day's main business will be an Opposition Day debate on a subject to be announced.

In the Lords (from 3pm) the report stage consideration of the Modern Slavery Bill continues and there will be a short debate on mental health services.

Thursday 26 February

In the Commons at 9.30am, business begins with Culture, Media and Sport Questions and Women and Equalities Questions, followed by the Business Statement from the Leader of the House.

The Chair of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale, will then make a statement on their latest report, on the Future of the BBC, ahead of its current Royal Charter ending in December 2016

The next debate, on a motion welcoming the government's decision to accept the Parliamentary Ombusdman's finding that it should pay compensation to victims of the Equitable Life scandal, is the latest act in a long-running saga, which has pitted the Ombudsman and the Public Administration Committee against ministers who have long resisted the ruling that they should pay up. The debate is led by Bob Blackman, Fabian Hamilton and Stephen Lloyd, and the motion calls on the government to pay compensation in full by the end of the next parliament.

That will be followed by a general debate on epilepsy led by Laura Sandys and Cheryl Gillan, and the adjournment debate is on government support for victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is opened by the local MP, Sarah Champion.

In Westminster Hall there will be a general debate on low carbon electricity generation led by the Chair of the Energy and Climate Chance Committee, Tim Yeo.

In the Lords (from 11am) the main event is the detailed committee stage scrutiny of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill - which would allow the fast-tracking of women bishops into the House of Lords. As I write, there don't appear to be any amendments down, but that may change.....there will also be a short debate on the effect of the EU regulation on British agriculture.

Friday 27 February

Another day devoted to private members' bills (and advanced tactical game-playing). First up are the report stage debates of two bills which have finished their committee stages - David Davis's Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill and Sir George Young's House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill. Both of these measures have the peculiarity that they were given a formal second reading, so they were effectively nodded through their first Commons debates. So this will be the first time they have actually been discussed on the floor of the House.

Mr Davis's bill requires the Health Service Ombudsman (for England and Wales - it won't apply in Scotland) to complete investigations of complaints within a year, or explain why that can't be done. He argues that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust scandal underlined the need to make it easier for patients to have their complaints resolved.

Sir George is taking through the bill piloted through the Upper House by the former Lord Speaker, Lady Hayman, which tidies up the Lords disciplinary system. One problem was that peers could only be suspended for the duration of a Parliament - which is a significant punishment just after an election, when they would be excluded for five years, but rather less painful at the end, when their suspension might amount to a couple of weeks.

But this bill could come under fire from awkward squaddie and private members' bill vigilante Chris Chope and his allies; Mr Chope thinks it gives the Upper House rather sweeping powers to make up its own regulations, and that they might be open to abuse.

Below those two bills on the batting order are nine bills proposed for second reading by Labour MP Thomas Docherty - who was seen sleeping overnight in the Public Bill Office in order to win this debating time, in the recent BBC documentary Inside the Commons. Now his moment has arrived... or has it? With an election looming, Conservative MPs are in no mood to cede debating time to air a series of Labour issues, so they might pad out discussion on the first two bills, to prevent such measures as the Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill getting to the wicket.

Over in the Lords (from 10am) the up and coming Lib Dem, Lord Purvis of Tweed, will bring back the International Development (official Development Assistance Target) Bill for its report stage, having fought a rather bad-tempered war of attrition to get it through committee stage. That saw the Lords sitting far later than normal for a Friday, after a series of senior peers, led by the former Chancellor Lord Lawson, tried to stop it. The bill would set a legal minimum for the UK's international aid spending, and its critics regard it as "the triumph of gesture politics over good government".

Here too, expect a virtuoso tactical battle if the rear-guard action continues. But unlike the Commons, the other bills on the agenda - the Local Government (Religious Observances) Bill, which underlines the right of local councillors to begin their meetings with prayers, and the Local Government (Review of Decisions) Bill, which provides a mechanism for overturning "jobsworth" health and safety rulings - should not be collateral damage. Their Lordships' more genteel ways would normally mean a break in a prolonged report stage to allow their second reading debates to be held.