Week ahead

It's half-term in Westminster this week, with Hon Members and Noble Lords sitting only on Monday and Tuesday - but the business before them includes a crucial vote on opting Britain into a series of shared EU justice and policing powers, including the European Arrest Warrant.

I've stuck my neck out and suggested that this won't provoke quite the mega-rebellion of Conservative backbenchers that some have expected. Talking to at least three different subspecies of Tory eurosceptic, none seemed to expect the kind of big, co-ordinated rebellion that has on occasion discomforted the Tory Whips Office.

We shall see.

Elsewhere there's some important action on the committee corridor - with Home Secretary Theresa May before the Home Affairs Committee to talk about the troubled inquiry into historic child abuse.

Here's my rundown of the half-week ahead:


The Commons opens at 2.30pm for Communities and Local Government questions - and then (assuming no statements or urgent questions intervene) MPs move on to those EU powers.

Expect a vote at around 10pm - after which the division list will make interesting reading. For a detailed look at the various issues in play, check out this cut out and keep guide from the Commons Library or, for hard core enthusiasts, this report from the Commons EU Scrutiny Committee.

In the Lords (2.30pm) another new peer takes her seat - Baroness Janke, the former Lib Dem Leader of Bristol City Council.

The day's legislating starts with the third reading debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - these debates tend to be pretty perfunctory unless there's some big outstanding issue - which, in this case, may include more on the government's controversial plan to set up secure colleges.

Then it's on to the third day of report stage discussion of the Infrastructure Bill - where the key issue is energy infrastructure and in particular the framework for unconventional oil and gas extraction, aka fracking. At least one vote is likely.


The Commons meets at 12pm for Justice questions, which will be followed by a ten minute rule bill from the Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert, to create a National Defence Medal.

MPs then whiz through the report stage and third reading of the National Insurance Contributions Bill, an uncontroversial and mainly technical measure which simplifies NICs paid by the self-employed and brings in new anti-avoidance mechanisms.

And after that it's House business, and a debate on the Medium-term Financial Plan for the House of Commons and Draft Estimates for 2015-16.

Buried in the dry balance sheets and statistics of the report from the Commons Finance and Services Committee is the fact that the House has managed to cut its operating costs by 17% - but this will provide a chance for those MPs who turn up to discuss a whole series of domestic issues.

Watch out for attempts to ensure funding is available in the next Parliament, should the House want to set up another commission on some big issue, along the lines of the highly successful Parliamentary Commission on Banking.

In Westminster Hall, the big debate is on Acorn Finance Mortgages, led by Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd (2.30pm - 4pm). He and a number of other MPs want to raise concerns about the company and its regulators.

And watch out for the Home Affairs Committee at 11.15am, taking evidence on historic child abuse and the search for a replacement for Fiona Woolf. As well as the home secretary, other witnesses include Alison Millar, counsel for the victims' groups, and Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE); Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC.

The Lords sits at 12pm, when questions to ministers will include one on the problems of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean

The day's legislating is the report stage of the Wales Bill. The key issues include the Lib Dem peer Lord Tyler's amendment for votes at 16 in future referendums on devolution, following the precedent set in Scotland, plus voter registration, reserve powers, dual candidacy, and devolved taxation - expect two or three of the amendments on these issues to be forced to votes.

And after all that, Parliament's off until Monday 17 November.