The week ahead in Parliament
Parliament may be sitting this week in body - but not in spirit. With most MPs keen to hit the doorsteps in the final campaigning days before Thursday's elections and referendum, the Commons authorities have thoughtfully scheduled some pretty humdrum business, and the programme of select committee activity's pretty thin as well.
When Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday, the Foreign Secretary William Hague will face MPs at question time - where (if House Business Questions this week are anything to go by) he will encounter considerable disquiet about events in Syria, and apparent mission creep in Libya. The Conservative Bob Stewart will move a ten minute rule bill proposing tougher powers to protect London's Green Belt. Then the Commons will embark on two days of detailed committee-stage consideration of the Finance (No 3) Bill, which codifies the income tax rates and allowances for the financial year. Meanwhile, the Lords will be continuing their detailed look at the European Union Bill - the bill to provide a "referendum lock" on further significant transfers of sovereignty to Brussels. That's followed by a motion regretting changes to the immigration rules.
On the Committee corridor former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens and former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman give evidence to the special committee looking at the Draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bills, and the Transport Minister Norman Baker will be guest of honour at the Transport Committee's final session on the impact of cuts to rural bus subsidies. The word is, he will be made to sweat. Culture, Media and Sport has its annual session with the broadcasting regulator Ofcom's Chair and Chief Exec - I expect the session will mostly be about how Ofcom is going to cope with reduced budget, redundancies etc. Plus the Business Innovation and Science Committee have a session on Higher Education - with the Open University, Association of Colleges, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and the education charity, the Sutton Trust.
The Lords Communications Committee continues its inquiry into the BBC Trust, when it will take evidence from newly appointed Director of BBC Vision George Entwistle and former BBC Director-General Greg Dyke, as well as David Jordan, the BBC's Director of Editorial Policy and Standards.
Wednesday sees the Commons continuing with that Finance Bill - and of course a pre-election Prime Minister's Question Time. I wonder if he'll deploy a different advertising catchphrase this week? There's also a ten minute rule bill on sex education, from the Conservative Nadine Dorries. She wants to ensure girls aged between 13 and 16 are informed of the benefits of abstinence. Peers will be continuing detailed scrutiny of the Postal Services Bill, the Bill to part privatise the Royal Mail. On the Committee Corridor there will be slightly more signs of life - the Foreign Affairs Committee are kicking off a new inquiry into the Foreign Office's human rights work, and the Energy and Climate Change Committee are holding a one-off session on the possibility of a windfall tax on North Sea Oil production. Would it deter investors from putting their money into UK oilfields?
Thursday - election and referendum day - is especially quiet. Transport Questions are followed by a debate on social housing in London scheduled in the Commons, by the Backbench Business Committee, mindful, perhaps, that London MPs do not have any local elections to divert their attention. The debate is headlined by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn. The Lords are debating Chechnya and the North Caucasus at the instigation of Labour human rights campaigner Lord Judd , and then the impact of government policies on disabled people - a debate led by Lord Low of Dalston, the Vice President of the RNIB. Then they will turn to the second reading of the Charities Bill. There are no committee sittings scheduled.
The Lords and Commons won't be sitting on Friday, but I'll be presenting a special edition of Radio 4's Today in Parliament that night, to get the parliamentary reaction to the outcome of the referendum on the voting system and of the local and devolved elections - all of which could send shockwaves running through Westminster. A frenetic end to an otherwise torpid week.