Week ahead

After a week of referendum and by-election aftershocks, it's a bit more like business as usual in Parliament - with the postponed debate on the Recall Bill the main highlight.

In the Lords, Labour are sharpening the knives for Lord Freud, the under-fire Work and Pensions Minister, who is due to answer questions on Tuesday and Thursday.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead.


The Commons opens at 2.30pm for defence questions - and assuming no ministerial statements or urgent questions (and there usually are some on a Monday), the next event is the report stage and then third reading of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill - which is intended to offer legal protection to people acting on behalf of society.

There are a few tweaking amendments from Labour front-benchers Andy Slaughter and Dan Jarvis.

Then, Sir Tony Baldry, the MP who speaks for the Church commissioners in the Commons will move to approve a Church of England Measure: Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women)

Clearly a significant milestone. It passed without division in the Lords this week, and will probably do the same in the Commons - there might be some discussion of the need for primary legislation to fast-track women bishops into the Lords, and maybe some comment about the presence of bishops in Parliament, too.

In the Lords (2.30pm) a week of ceremonial new arrivals begins with the introduction of two new Conservative peers: Baroness Harding of Winscombe, chief executive of the TalkTalk Group - last year listed among Woman's Hour's 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom, and Baroness Mobarik, former chairman of CBI Scotland.

The day's main legislating is on third reading of the Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill, including a vote on widening powers of the ombudsman to undertake thematic investigations.

Then peers move to the first day of report stage consideration of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. A "revenge porn" amendment is expected to be debated. Lord Faulks, Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy, has agreed to put forward the proposal which makes it an offense to publish a private sexual image of another identifiable person without their consent. This includes showing another person, too. Also at issue: protection of children from media intrusion, drug testing and ID theft. Possible late evening vote on offence of assaulting a shop worker while at work.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for health questions, followed by a ten minute rule bill on

sex and relationships education from Labour MP Diana Johnson, who wants the curriculum to cover resilience against bullying and sexual abuse.

Then MPs move on to the second reading of the Recall of MPs Bill. The real battles will start when the committee stage starts. Since this will be a committee of the whole House there is real potential for a backbench uprising to from MPs who want to beef up what they regard as a hopelessly feeble measure.

Conservative Zac Goldsmith will be leading the charge, and he says he has supporters across all parties - and seemed poised to rewrite the bill with Labour support, to get "Recall Max," which would make the sole criteria for triggering a recall by-election a petition signed by 20% of voters in a particular constituency.

That would sweep away the government proposal for a recall system under which MPs could automatically face a by-election if jailed, or if suspended from the House for 21 sitting days. The objection to that second route to recall is that it would make the Commons Standards Committee the gatekeeper to the process, and the voters would only get their chance to remove an MP if they imposed sufficiently long suspension from the Commons - opening the way to accusations that the establishment in Westminster still called the shots.

Interestingly, Recall Max supporters detect a change in the government line, after recent by-elections, and a new keenness to deliver their version of Recall. Watch this space.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) more new peers arrive - today's are Baroness Smith of Newnham - a Lib Dem councillor in Cambridge and Lord Cooper of Windrush - Andrew Cooper, the Conservatives former Director of Political Strategy, now with the opinion pollster Populus.

The day's main business is the Deregulation Bill - committee of the whole House. Votes are anticipated on ensuring health and safety legislation applies to the self-employed, and keeping Employment Tribunals' powers to make wider recommendations.

After pressure from Labour, the final vote of the day is likely to be on an amendment to prevent licensed cab drivers from operating anywhere, using a license obtained in the weakest licensing area - another danger to personal safety. As ever with committee stage debates, most of the action will be designed to stake out positions in advance of the report stage. The dinner break debate will be on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the recent election.


The Commons begins (11.30am) with Welsh questions, followed at noon by prime minister's questions.

The day's main debates are on motions from the Northern Ireland DUP - including one on the National Crime Agency.

In the Lords (from 3pm) the new peer of the day is former Lib Dem chief exec Lord Fox, who plans to specialise in helping manufacturing industry.

The main debate is on the second day of report stage on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - a vote may well be forced on the government's Secure College proposals for young offenders, which Labour peers say will introduce risk and uncertainty. During the dinner break, Lord Dubs will lead a short debate on reaching and implementing an agreement on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland.


The Commons begins at 9.30am with transport questions, followed by questions to the House of Commons Commission (a chance for the still-rumbling row over the appointment of a new Clerk of the House to resurface) and questions to the Leader of the House, followed by the Leader's weekly Business Statement.

The day's main debates are organised via the Backbench Business Committee. First the Conservative Richard Drax leads a debate on the Repeal of Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011 (you saw it here first). Mr Drax was always a sceptic about coalition with the Lib Dems and would like to go back to the old system where the prime minister could request a dissolution of Parliament at a time of their choosing. This will be an interesting taking of the voices both from backbenchers and front-benchers; there's a feeling among some MPs and peers that the five year fixed term does not fit with the biorhythms of political life and leads to a sluggish coasting final year. Others welcome the reduction in prime ministerial power and the certainty about the date of future elections.

The second debate is on oral hormone pregnancy tests - which were phased out in the 1970s, after some studies linked them to serious deformities in children. Labour's Yasmin Qureshi will be pressing for full disclosure of government documents about the tests - and for an independent panel to investigate whether warnings should have been issued about them earlier.

In Westminster Hall from 1.30pm, there's a debate on the Science and Technology Committee report: Communicating climate science, and the government response to it.

In the Lords (11am) the influx continues. The day's new legislators are Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen - a former nurse and osteoporosis campaigner (she played a key role in getting vitamin D added to yoghurts, as a preventive measure) and co-chair of the committee vetting Conservative candidates; and Lord Scriven - the Lib Dem former leader of Sheffield City Council.

The day's main debates - led by backbench Labour peers Martin O'Neill and John Monks, are on the Construction Industry and on improving the alternatives for young people not attending university.


Both Houses are sitting to debate private members' bills.

The Commons opens at 9.30am - and first on the agenda is the second reading of Richard Bacon's Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill.

This is a modest Grand Designs Bill, intended to introduce a duty for local authorities to keep a register of people who want to self-build and then to take account of their needs in their local plan. And where developments are big enough to attract a social housing obligation as part of their planning permission, the bill would allow the inclusion of self-building provision, involving registered social landlords, to count towards that obligation.

That's followed by the second reading of Conservative Julian Sturdy's Control of Horses Bill - which deals with controlling horses in public places.

Towards the end of the agenda lurk several bills put forward by MPs who braved the annual ordeal of parking overnight in the Public Bills Office (a hot stuffy room directly above the Commons Chamber).

Christopher Chope has the Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill and the House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill and the Greens' Caroline Lucas has the Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill. Barring some parliamentary spasm cutting off one of the previous debates earlier than expected, these are unlikely to be debated before time runs out - although the first Chope Bill might get a few minutes at the fag end of the day.

It's also private member's bill day in the Lords (from 10am). First up is the committee stage debate of the Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill. This would allow doctors to innovate in medical treatment without fear of being sued - which has led to accusations that it is "a quack's charter".

The bill is intended "to encourage responsible innovation in medical treatment (and accordingly to deter innovation which is not responsible)". The bill's supporters say that innovation is currently being stifled as doctors, fearful of being sued, are reluctant to deviate from standard treatment. Finding a cure for cancer has been a particular point of interest. Its opponents, however, worry that the bill would give a doctor the go-ahead to treat a patient in a way that his professional colleagues believe is harmful or dangerous. This lack of safety net for responsible and safe practice, they say, makes the bill unworkable.

Then peers move on to the second reading of the Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill.

And finally the former Lord Speaker, Lady Hayman presents her House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill - seen as a long overdue measure to allow for the expulsion of peers who have committed serious criminal offences.