Week ahead

Both houses have some heavy duty law-making to do this week. The headlines will probably go to peers' first debate on the bill to allow gay marriage (see earlier post) but the two days MPs devote to the Energy Bill could have ramifications for the cost of gas and electricity to every home and business in the land.

But the week's first big event looks likely to be the first parliamentary discussion of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The Home Secretary, Teresa May, will surely have to update MPs.


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Communities and Local Government Questions. And that will almost certainly be followed by ministerial statements on the murder in Woolwich and one the recent European Council summit.

It is also possible that Energy Secretary Ed Davey may make a statement announcing the outcome of negotiations with the French energy company EDF on building new nuclear power stations - including the so-called "strike price" which dictates the level of public subsidy. This mainlines into this week's main Commons law-making - two report stage days on the Energy Bill. It is two days because there is a battery of amendments down from the official opposition, the SNP, the Greens' Caroline Lucas and a series of Conservative and Lib Dem backbenchers. Mr Speaker has not yet made his selection for debate, but there is scope for a fair few to be called.

Without going through them in detail, some are aimed at preventing public subsidy to nuclear power, some will increase the permissible size of community energy schemes, some (like Dr Liam Fox's) take aim at onshore wind farms and one, from the Conservative MP Mark Reckless is intended to strike down emissions standards which he says amount to an effective ban on the construction of new coal-fired power stations. He believes new evidence on the pace of global warming and a drop in the global price of coal have renewed the case for coal, and he wants to make wider points about the effect of climate-change policy on household fuel bills. But he is still consulting on whether he would push his amendment to a vote, if it is selected. And depending on the Speaker's selection of amendments, there could well be small rebellions by assorted groups of MPs on a number of issues.

In the Lords, question time (2.30pm) covers proposals to privatise or reorganise the handling and repayment of student loans, the decline in the numbers choosing part-time university courses, the impact of cuts in legal aid on access to justice and the possibility of an international conference of Muslim leaders to address violent extremism. Then the main business is the Marriage (Same Sex Couple) Bill - with 86 peers now listed to speak. The Coalition business managers have responded to pressure from all sides (see earlier post) to rejig the debate to avoid sitting beyond midnight - and the vote will now be taken on Tuesday. Some peers may not like that, so watch out for complaints that this isn't quite cricket.....Overshadowing proceedings is the rarity of a motion to decline to give the bill a second reading, from the Crossbencher, Lord Dear.


The Commons meets at 11.30am, with questions to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Someone is bound to raise the post-Woolwich attempts to revive the Communications Data Bill which he denounces as "the snoopers charter". There will also be questions to the government's top lawyer, the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve.

The main business is the second report stage day of the Energy Bill, followed by what will probably be a rather perfunctory third reading. The big event of the day will be the amendment from the Chair of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo. This seeks to lock the UK into a 2030 decarbonisation target for energy production - with the intention of encouraging business to invest in, for example, large scale manufacture of offshore wind turbines in Britain, thus cutting the cost of the kit. The amendment is expected to produce a rebellion in the Coalition ranks, with Mr Yeo and a handful of like-minded Tories and Lib Dems joining Labour in the division lobbies. It is unlikely that the rebellion will succeed, but a close-ish vote could set up a further attempt when the bill reaches the Lords.

The day ends with an adjournment debate on sentencing for assaults on football referees, led by the Conservative and qualified ref, Chris Heaton-Harris. He is raising the FA's concerns that attacks on referees are often treated as football disciplinary issues or are met with cautions rather than criminal prosecutions. And he will be seeking assurances from the Ministry of Justice that a sterner approach will be taken in the future.

In the parallel debating chamber, Westminster Hall, there will be a series of debates led by backbenchers on the usual assortment of constituency causes and policy issues. My eye was caught by the debate led by the hyperactive Cambridge Lib Dem, Julian Huppert, who raises the issue of support for science and research.

The Lords meet at 2.30pm - it might be the morning after the night before for many peers. Questions to ministers cover quite what George Osborne meant by "flexibility in the fiscal framework" in a speech to the IMF in Washington in April. Eagle-eyed Labour former Treasury Minister, Lord Barnett, will be probing for signs of a policy change. And a few days after this year's Derby, there's a question from Labour's Baroness Hayter on changes to the rights of women since Emily Davison threw herself under the King's horse at Epsom on 4 June 1913.

And then the same-sex marriage debate continues - at the moment the idea is that the four winding speeches should be heard, and then the vote would be taken, but if the number of peers wanting to weigh-in continues to increase, there might be a bit of overspill into Tuesday, with a few more speakers to be heard.

All passion spent, peers will then move on to the first of five committee days devoted to the Care Bill - but the really controversial parts of the bill, dealing with crucial issues like the cap on what individuals will be expected to pay for their own care will be back-loaded until after the government's next Spending Review, when a there will be clearer picture of the money available to fund the new system.

That is followed by a short debate on the global fund on HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, led by Lord Fowler, who was Health Secretary when the AIDS epidemic first emerged in the 1980s.


The day in the Commons begins at 11.30am for Northern Ireland questions - and then, at noon, a rare treat: Prime Minister's Question Time. David Cameron's last joust with Ed Miliband was on 24 April, so it will be interesting to see how the two leaders shape up.

That is followed by the first opposition day debate of the new parliamentary year - the subject had not yet been announced.

The adjournment debate is led by the new Croydon North MP Steve Reed, on compensation for victims of the summer 2011 riots. He's concerned that some people have not received any, while others have not received enough to meet the damage they suffered - this includes people whose homes were burnt down.

In Westminster Hall there are more backbench debates. Senior Conservative Anne McIntosh raises the operation of the NHS 111 telephone service and its effects on emergency services (9.30am - 11am) and Conservative awkward squaddie Christopher Chope has a well-timed debate on access to out-of-work benefits by EU citizens who are not UK nationals (4.30pm - 5pm).

In the Lords (from 3pm) ministers field questions on encouraging brain donation to assist scientific research, and on ethnic tensions in Burma. This is the first of two hits on the subject today by the Crossbench peer Lord Alton - who also has a dinner break debate on Burma

Then peers move on to the first of two committee stage days on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. Meanwhile in Grand Committee (from 3.30pm) there's a committee stage debate on the Mesothelioma Bill.


The week's energy theme continues when the Commons meets at 9.30am for Energy and Climate Change Questions. That is followed at 10.30am by the weekly Business Statement, listing what MPs will be doing for the coming week. And then MPs move on to two debates chosen by their Backbench Business Committee, on issues raised by Select Committees.

First they will discuss the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee's running battle with the government on overseas student visas - the committee has been highly critical of Government Policy and warned it was damaging the economy.

MPs will then move on to discussing the Environmental Audit Committee's report on Pollinators and Pesticides, which warned of the impact of neo-nicotinoid pesticides on bees and other insects.

The day's adjournment debate is on future commissioning arrangements of augmentative and alternative communication services - led by the Conservative Paul Maynard.

In Westminster Hall, MPs will debate the 9th Report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Drugs: Breaking the Cycle which, tentatively, suggested that the Government take a look at the "de-penalisation" of drugs in Portugal. Expect some interesting cross questioning of the Home Office minister responding.

In the Lords (from 11am) question time covers terminations of pregnancy in NHS hospitals which are not compliant with the Abortion Act, and the prospectus for the new Garden Cities.

Then there are the normal Thursday debates chosen by backbench peers - today's cover the economic and social consequences of tax evasion and avoidance, unmet housing need, and a committee report on the EU's approach to migration and mobility.

Around the BBC