Week ahead

Peers in the House of Lords

Bruised by eight defeats, with the possibility of more to come next week, the Housing and Planning Bill is limping towards its third reading in the Lords, next Wednesday.

And there's certainly going to be a vigorous bout of Parliamentary ping-pong with the Commons, probably going to more than one round, to resolve the differences between the two Houses.

And the same applies to the Trade Union Bill, where there have been three government defeats, and ministers have been forced to make substantial concessions to avoid more.

Next week, peers will also be responding to Commons amendments to the Immigration Bill and the Energy Bill - both on issues where peers have defeated the government and may not wish to back down.

But lurking just offstage will be the spectral presence of the Strathclyde Review, which contains proposals to clip their lordships' wings, in response to the stinging defeat they inflicted on that statutory instrument on tax credits, in the wake of the Budget. Strathclyde is sleeping, but might awake, rebellious peers to crush - if there's further provocation. Several noble ears are pressed to the ground to detect any rumblings that would suggest the appearance of a bill to curtail the powers of the Upper House in the Queen's Speech, in May. Were such a bill to appear, life in the posh end of Westminster could become very interesting indeed

Next week's committee corridor highlights include George Osborne at the Treasury Committee to talk Brexit on Thursday (10.30am) and also on Thursday, the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, before the BIS Committee, to talk about the UK Steel Industry - Tata Steel will give their evidence first.

And keep an eye out for the Procedure Committee, who're due at some stage to rebuke Theresa May, in person, over the Home Office's poor performance in answering Commons questions.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Commons opens at 2.30pm with Education questions, which will doubtless focus on the government's scheme to convert all schools in England into academies. Any post-weekend ministerial statements or urgent questions will follow at 3.30pm.

Then MPs turn to the Lords amendments to the Immigration Bill, and in particular the "Dubs amendment".

Labour peer Lord Dubs does not accept a compromise offered by the government to his amendment to allow in 3,000 children from Syrian refugee camps: "While I welcome this proposal, it doesn't deal sufficiently with the substance of my amendment and I will continue to press the government for more action when the Immigration Bill comes back to the floor of the Lords next week. You also have to wonder whether the use of the '3,000' figure is a deliberate ploy to muddy the debate."

A number of Conservative MPs rather agree with Lord Dubs and there's the possibility of a backbench rebellion - even, perhaps a government defeat.

The Dubs amendment, won by a majority of 102, required that:

"(1) The Secretary of State must, as soon as possible after the passing of this Act, make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.

(2) The relocation of children under subsection (1) shall be in addition to the resettlement of children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme."

And I'm told that, when the bill bounces back to the Lords, both Labour and Lib Dem peers will be whipped very intensively to keep the Dubs proposal alive.

The next debate could also be tricky for the government. Backbenchers outside London (mainly but not exclusively Conservatives) have waged a long and successful campaign to rebalance the funding formula for schools in England, which they have long argued are under-funded in comparison to schools in the capital. So successful have they been that London MPs have obtained a Backbench Business Committee debate on education funding in London, to air their anxieties that their schools stand to lose funding.

In Westminster Hall, MPs debate (4.30pm -7.30pm) E-petition 108072, which calls for the meningitis B vaccine to be routinely given to children. The Conservative Ben Howlett leads proceedings, and following joint evidence sessions with the Health Committee, he believes the scientific evidence supports extending vaccination to children up to the age of four. That would cover the period of maximum vulnerability to the disease, and after that age there are alternative treatments available, he argues. Public Health Minister Jane Ellison is expected to respond for the government.

In the Lords (2.30pm) there's plenty of action, starting with the third reading of the Trade Union Bill , where peers will probe the re-drafted government amendments on check-off (allowing employers to deduct union dues from pay packets), facility time for union officials and the role of the Certification Officer.

That is followed by the fifth and final day of report stage consideration of the Housing and Planning Bill , where peers are due to look at more planning issues. The Lib Dem Baroness Parminter has amendments down on carbon compliance standards for new homes and on sustainable drainage to help prevent flooding.


The Commons opens at 11.30am with Justice questions - after which Labour former minister David Hanson will present a Ten Minute Rule Bill to exclude the 92 hereditary peers who still sit in the House of Lords (under a compromise deal brokered in 1999 by the former Speaker of the Commons, Lord Weatherill). He says the last straw was the by-election to replace the late Lord Avebury as a Lib Dem hereditary peer, where seven candidates vied for the favour of an electorate of three.

Then MPs turn to the report stage of the Policing and Crime Bill - followed by a quick rubber stamp English grand committee and a third reading. This is a wide-ranging measure covering collaboration between the emergency services, police complaints and super-complaints about policing, replacing the Association of Chief Police Officers with the National Police Chiefs' Council, regulation of firearms, the licensing of alcohol, the powers of the National Crime Agency and combating sexual exploitation of children.

All sorts of amendments and new clauses are being proposed: watch out for a new clause from Conservative backbenchers David Burrowes, Derek Thomas, Will Quince and Craig Mackinlay, to require "due diligence checks" before the sale of knives to people under 18. Knife crime has long been an issue where Conservative backbenchers have pushed for tougher laws.

Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts has another new clause to devolve responsibility for policing to the National Assembly for Wales, and another calling for the codification of the wide assortment of laws on digital crime. And she joins Labour's Lyn Brown and Sarah Champion in proposing a new offence of abduction of a vulnerable child aged 16 or 17 - to apply to people who take a child away from the responsible person.

Another new clause, proposed by the Labour frontbench, would enact the Future in Mind report's recommendation that young people who have been sexually abused or exploited should receive a comprehensive initial assessment, and referral to appropriate service.

Other new clauses deal with firearms regulations, deaths in custody, mental health, grooming children for criminal behaviour, soliciting for prostitution via telecommunications, an increase the maximum sentence for child cruelty from 10 years to 14, the use of Tasers on psychiatric wards, national anti-doping provisions and the right of Special Constables to join the Police Federation.

Expect complaints that far too little time has been allocated to deal with all of these.

In Westminster Hall, there are backbench debates on fixed-odds betting terminals (9.30am-11am); research and development of new antibiotics (2.30pm-4pm); quiet cities (4pm-4.30pm) and the effect of social security changes on equality (4.30pm-5.30pm).

In the Lords (2.30pm) it's ping-pong time again. After the usual half hour of questions to ministers, peers will turn to the Energy Bill, where the Commons has rejected Lords amendments on subsidies to onshore wind. The government will point to its manifesto commitment on this issue, and argue that peers should not press the point. And then it's on to the Immigration Bill - where there's a strong expectation that peers will have another go at pressing the "Dubs Amendment" (see above).

After that the report stage consideration of the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill should be a pretty routine affair.


The Commons opens (at 11.30am) for Cabinet Office questions - followed at noon by Prime Minister's question time. The day's Ten Minute Rule Bill, from the Lib Dem Tom Brake, is the Landlord and Tenant (Reform) Bill. And after that it's on to Lords amendments to the Trade Union Bill; this could go to several rounds of ping-pong, with negotiations still under way between the parties.

In Westminster Hall, the subjects for debate include violence against women and girls and the Sustainable Development Goals (9.30am-11am) and the use of ambulatory care (2.30pm -4pm).

The Westminster Hall debate to watch (at 4.30pm-5.30pm) may well be the Conservative MP Stewart Jackson's, on government proposals for devolution in East Anglia. There's a radical scheme proposed to create a super-authority, under an elected Mayor, covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and his Peterborough constituency, and Mr Jackson is not a fan.

Proposals for devolved authorities, which would be handed control of some central government funding, on terms negotiated with the Treasury, are popping up all over England - and some are encountering stiff resistance. There are fears that this one, for example, could eventually lead to the abolition of East Anglia's county councils. This debate could push a mostly unremarked, but very far-reaching government policy into the limelight.

In the Lords, (from 3pm) the big event is the third reading of the Housing and Planning Bill , where the main issues are mostly around probing concessions promised by the government. Expect plenty of ping-pong with the Commons to follow.


The Commons opens (9.30am) with Transport questions, followed by the weekly the Business Statement setting out the future Commons agenda, from the Leader of the House.

That's followed by two Backbench Business Committee debates - first on World Autism Awareness Week and then on HMRC's Building our Future plan, which entails major staff cuts and the closure of many local tax offices.

In the Lords (11am), peers will administer the final rubber stamp to the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill, at third reading, and then they will turn to a general debate on the steps being taken to build a stronger economy.

Neither House sits on Friday.