Boris Johnson: Can new PM deliver in the Commons?

Boris Johnson speaking for the first time as prime minister in the Commons Image copyright Reuters

There was a moment in Thursday's Commons sitting that crystallised the approach of Boris Johnson's new government.

Labour MP Gareth Snell asked the new Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, when the government was going to bring back the Trade Bill for MPs to consider.

Now, the Trade Bill is one of a number of measures loaded with anti-Brexit booby traps by peers - in this case an amendment calling for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU, something Remainer MPs might uphold in the Commons.

Mr Rees-Mogg dealt with that suggestion with a brusque nine words: "Why on earth would anybody want to do that?"

No faffing around with talk about "in due course", or "when the moment is ripe".

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Week ahead in Parliament

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After this week's Commons defeat, the new prime minister due to kiss hands next week will be painfully aware of the troubles ahead.

A combination of abstentions and outright rebellion have imposed some awkward requirements on the government which could well prevent ministers from suspending - or "proroguing" - Parliament, in order to exit the EU without deal.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Bullying and Brexit dominate Parliament this week, with a routine piece of Northern Ireland legislation suddenly caught up in efforts to forestall a no-deal Brexit, and MPs getting a chance to debate their latest reports on bullying and harassment in the world of Westminster.

I detail the Brexit manoeuvrings below, but they will involve both the Lords and Commons, in one of those bewilderingly intricate legislative dances when amendments bounce between the two houses.

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Votes emphasise government's precarious position

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Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Amidst stories of a whip getting stuck in the Commons lavatory or one of the new proxy votes being bungled, the government was defeated by a single vote on Tuesday night.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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That discordant scraping sound you hear in Westminster? It is the sound of ministers scouring the bottom of the legislative barrel to find more micro-measures for MPs to consider, while they wait for a new prime minister and his government agenda to appear.

So, there is legislation in the Lords on the national insurance contributions treatment of money from sporting testimonials, and the non-domestic rates paid on public lavatories.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Margaret Beckett Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dame Margaret Beckett is behind one of the latest move to block a no-deal Brexit

After long weeks becalmed in the parliamentary doldrums, Westminster will be moving again next week - with a couple of significant moments expected.

On Brexit there's an innovative backbench attempt to block a no-deal exit, and the long awaited publication of Gemma White QC's independent inquiry into bullying and harassment within the parliamentary community is expected early in the week.

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Brecon and Radnorshire by-election: The sneaky technique of debating a writ

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What is it about writs - the Parliamentary motion to trigger a by-election - when it comes to Brecon and Radnorshire?

Wednesday's kerfuffle - with Plaid Cymru's Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts alleging that the laying of the writ has been delayed so that an incoming prime minister would not be greeted with an embarrassing result on the very day they win the Conservative leadership contest - sent me scurrying to my files.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Call me a cynic, but the unbearable lightness of Monday's Commons business (and indeed the preceding Thursday's), with no votes due and hardly a select committee sitting, suggests an unofficial long weekend policy is now operating.

This is allowing MPs to turn up in Westminster on Tuesday and sidle off again on close of business on Wednesday - a policy which will continue at least until the arrival of a new prime minister and which may well last until the summer.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Parliament remains becalmed. Behind the scenes Westminster may seethe with politicking and angst, but the front of house legislative agenda is threadbare, leaving MPs to busy themselves with nuggets of technical legislation and general debates.

And until there is a new government, armed with a new agenda, expect more of the same.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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And the big Commons question this week - and indeed for the weeks to come - is "will there be a contested vote of any kind?"

At the moment the whole machinery of government and Parliament is just barely ticking over, waiting for a new prime minister and a new agenda; all substantial legislation is on hold, so the Commons and Lords are mostly dealing with minor technical legislation or backbench and opposition day debates.

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