Week ahead

It's a week for detail and clever parliamentary tactics, as the Commons digs into the politically sensitive detail of the Banking Bill.

The Lords are also facing another joust over gay marriage.


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Communities and Local Government questions, after which any urgent questions or ministerial statements will be taken.

The day's legislative action is the report stage of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, which has been on ice since May, awaiting the report of Andrew Tyrie's Parliamentary Commission on Banking.

Expect lots of Labour amendments, with the Opposition pressing the government on whether ring fencing between "casino banking" and utility banking can be effective, unless it is backed up by a power to force them to be separated altogether, and they will also be arguing for a licensing regime for bankers along the lines suggested by the Parliamentary Commission.

I'm told members of the Treasury Committee are beavering away at amendments, which will go down in the name of their chair, Andrew Tyrie. These may be probing amendments designed to extract a response from ministers, paving the way for more pointed amendments in the Lords. And that's where the Commission have their best chance of getting their way in the teeth of ministerial objection given the number of senior peers who served on it....

One problem is that the bill is a kind of skeleton measure which would be fleshed out by secondary legislation, later on. And the procedures for that allow much less scrutiny than would be given to a full-dress bill.

Meanwhile the Conservative Treasury Committee member, Andrea Leadsom, has put down an amendment to make it much easier for people to move their account (keeping its number) to another bank. At the moment the process is so complicated that people are more likely to divorce than switch banks. She sees account portability as a key way of boosting competition in what she calls the closed shop of British banking. One key issue is that the infrastructure for inter-bank payments is owned by the existing banks and new entrants have to work through them, and that poses a major obstacle for new banks. And a major side benefit is that if it becomes a simple matter to move an account, it also becomes simple to move all the accounts from a bank which collapses - so a future bank failure would not be a catastrophe for its current account holders.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) ministers field questions on the impact on the not-for-profit sector of Part 1 of the Legal Aid Act, age restrictions for video games to protect children, progress in eliminating Japanese knotweed and an intriguing query about "organisations and individuals challenging proposed changes to sex education" - that one comes from Baroness Gould of Potternewton.

Then it's on to the report stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill - this is where serious attempts to amend the bill will start; expect another round of arguments about protecting freedom of expression, so people can't be prosecuted for stating their opposition to same-sex marriage and about "conscience clauses" to protect teachers and registrars (the clauses about teachers may come up on Wednesday, if progress is slow...) and an attempt from the former Lord Chancellor, Lord McKay of Clashfern to define different types of marriage as "marriage (opposite sex couples)" and "marriage (same sex couples)."

Supporters of the bill regard this as an attempt to unpick their central proposal for marriage equality - so expect strong opposition. Elsewhere there will be amendments on humanist weddings and the system for recognising a change of gender for transsexuals - I'm told the government is close to agreeing a compromise on the last two issues, which may be agreed over the weekend.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for its monthly bout of Clegg-bashing, as the Deputy Prime Minister takes questions at the dispatch box. And the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has his mini-question time. The day's ten minute rule bill is one of the Alternative Queen's Speech measures proposed by the Tory right - Philip Hollobone will seek leave to ring in the Planning Regulations (Removal of provisions in respect of Gypsies and Travellers) Bill.

The government has crowbarred in extra debating time for the Banking Bill - so the report stage will be continued, if necessary, and then there will be a third reading debate.

Then there's a committee of the whole House on the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. This is the detailed consideration of what is billed as a "tidying-up measure" which tweaks various aspects of the devolution settlement.

Expect some sparring over provisions to disclose who's making political donations (Alliance MP Naomi Long has an amendment down to bring forward the date from which donations must be disclosed....) But there is an underlying issue: how to move towards a more normal politics? The power-sharing Executive involves all parties - but that means that it proceeds by consensus and gradualism. Can it, should it, shift towards a more conventional majoritarian politics? And how should Northern Ireland come to terms with its violent past? There's some talk of an amendment from the Labour shadow secretary of state Vernon Coaker on that issue...

In the Lords (2.30pm), there's an interesting-looking question to ministers on the impact on Council Tax arrears of the reduction in Council Tax benefit and the localisation of support for those in need - one of those tekky-looking subjects that can often entangle ministers. Meanwhile Lord Alton of Liverpool seeks a response to the report by Amnesty International, We had no time to bury him: War crimes in Sudan's Blue Nile State.

The day's big legislative business is the third reading of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, where Labour may press to a vote their proposal to include a pilot scheme for a specialised Veterans Court in the bill. Ministers seemed interested in the idea at committee stage, then opposed it at report....Admiral Lord West is one of the signatories to their amendment.

Peers then move on to their fifth committee stage day on the Care Bill- the key issues remain housing and social care, assessments for care and support; low pay in social care, including zero hours contracts, and eligibility criteria, charges and cap on social care funding.

And there's also a short debate scheduled on the effectiveness of EU and UK aid to Palestine.


The Commons sits at 11.30am with Northern Ireland questions, followed by prime minister's question time at noon.

Then there's Conservative Peter Bone's ten minute rule bill on eradicating slavery. There could be interesting undertones to this....Mr Bone is slightly in limbo as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on People Trafficking, where this year's election for an MP to co-chair has ended in deadlock with Labour's Fiona MacTaggart. But he is a long standing campaigner on this issue, and he extracted guarded support from the prime minister at PMQs, this week.

The day's main debate is on a Labour motion on government policy on disabled people. And there will also be a bit of parliamentary ritual as Conservative awkward squaddie Chris Chope once again opposes private bills - these ones are on London Transport and filming on highways in Herefordshire.

In the Lords (from 3pm) there are questions on making apprenticeships accessible to dyslexic people and on publishing a government response to the consultation on the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Then it's back to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for day two of report stage debate. There will be amendments on incestuous relationships and on holding a referendum to decide whether same sex marriage should be allowed. And the Labour peer Lord Alli looks set to press an amendment on pension rights for spouses to a vote - this issue is tricky for ministers, because any figures of the number of same sex partners affected would rely on guesswork. Lib Dem veteran Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank (the artist formerly known as Bill Rodgers) leads a short dinner break debate on government archives and official histories.


Bleary-eyed MPs totter into the Chamber at 9.30am for Energy and Climate Change questions , to be followed by the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House.

And the rest of the day is taken up by debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. The first is a debate on the motion from the Conservative John Baron to demand prior parliamentary approval for any "lethal intervention" in the Syrian conflict. The government believe David Cameron has already gone as far as any prime minister can in assuring the Commons that it will be consulted - and looks unlikely to oppose the motion, although there's a certain amount of irritation and ennui about it.

The second debate marks the 25th Anniversary of the Piper Alpha Disaster - given that the oil and gas industry in the now employs around 400,000 people, and is an inherently dangerous industry, and Piper Alpha was the worst offshore disaster anywhere in the world, MPs Frank Doran and Peter Aldous will lead a debate to take stock of the current state of health and safety within it.

Over in Westminster Hall (from 1.30pm) there are debates on social care reform for working age disabled people, led by Conservative Heather Wheeler and Lib Dem David Ward, and a debate on large scale solar arrays - led by the Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston, who says they're blots on the landscape.

In the Lords (from 11am) question time ranges across the proposed royal charter on the supervision of press standards and training for junior doctors on the long-term effects of prescribing drugs and addiction and withdrawal services.

The peers move on to the usual Thursday series of backbench debates - led on this occasion by crossbench peers. Today's subjects are the future funding of health and social care in England; the effect of cuts in legal aid funding on the justice system, and the impact of music on tourism.


Attendances will be back to normal after the previous week's unusual interest levels in the EU Referendum Bill.

When MPs gather at 9.30am it will be for the second reading of the Labour MP Paul Blomfield's High Cost Credit Bill - this includes provisions to control the advertising and marketing of high cost credit products, and to ensure clearer information is provided to borrowers on the cost of loans and on additional charges levied if they fail to repay.

It will include new measures to ensure that loans are affordable by introducing lending limits and capping excessive charges. It will protect borrowers having problems with repayment by requiring lenders to refer them to free independent debt advice, freeze charges and ensure that proper repayment plans are put in place.

Next on the agenda is the Lib Dem Mark Williams' Child Maltreatment Bill. He says the criminal law on child neglect has not changed in 80 years; he aims to tighten the law on the "accidental" neglect of children and to tackle psychological and emotional child neglect. There are more bills further down the agenda - Andrew Selous' Education (Information Sharing) Bill, and Chris Chope's Sexual Impropriety in Employment Bill - but they probably won't be reached.

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