Week ahead

Fracking, anti-terrorism powers and a battle between the Commons and the Lords over restrictions on judicial review are next week's main (scheduled) Westminster events.

And for all the moaning about a "zombie Parliament" with nothing to do, there's a fair bit of interesting legislation being cranked through the legislative sausage machine...with a promise of some very complicated tax legislation to clamp down on avoidance by multi-national companies, promised for the near future.

And I expect a serious attempt to force a vote on a Commons rule change to enable English Votes for English Laws (aka EVEL) at some point.

Meanwhile, here's my rundown of the business for next week:


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Work and Pensions questions. Expect the usual clutch of post-weekend ministerial statements and urgent questions to follow at 3.30pm (last week there were two statements.)

The day's main legislating will be the second reading of the Infrastructure Bill - which has already been through the House of Lords. It's a very wide-ranging bill, covering planning law, energy, strategic road networks and control of non-native species in the UK ecosystem. The major change in the bill in the Lords was the government concession over public forests, when ministers promised not to transfer any publicly-owned forests to the organisation responsible for encouraging house building. Which leaves fracking - the controversial process for extracting shale gas and oil from rock - as the main outstanding issue. Labour is expected to put down amendments imposing tougher controls on the process, when the bill reaches its committee stage.

The adjournment debate focuses on access to free cash withdrawals. Bristol North West MP Charlotte Leslie believes that poorer people should not be charged to access their money in areas where there is no free cash point. She is currently campaigning on this in her local area.

In the Lords (2.30pm), more new peers take their seats this week. Today's new arrival is the Chair of MigrationWatch, Lord Green of Deddington, who will sit as a crossbencher.

A brisk day's legislating will follow, with the report stage of Lord Naseby's Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill, which enjoys cross-party and business support, and would create a legal framework for shares to be issued in a range of mutuals, helping them to raise additional funds without undermining their mutual purpose (currently, mutuals can only raise capital from retained earnings or borrowing and do not have the flexibility to raise additional funds from their members or other external sources).

Then, it's the third reading of the Consumer Rights Bill. Peers have so far failed to introduce measures such as opting-in to adult content online, outlawing charging of agents fees for tenants and controlling the timing of adverts for payday lenders; one of these may crop up for a final hurrah at third reading, but it is unlikely anything big will pass.

That is followed by the third committee stage day on the Modern Slavery Bill - where they will be focusing on the clauses dealing with the proposed Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the protection of victims- key issues include a child trafficking advocate, a statutory defence for trafficking, and a national referral mechanism.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Treasury questions, followed by a ten minute rule bill from South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck. It aims to tackle "funeral poverty" - where people get into debt because they can't afford a funeral service for someone close to them. The bill would require funeral directors to provide a "simple funeral" option and help customers understand the costs.

The main business is the first of three days of detailed committee stage debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - with MPs focusing on the sections covering data retention and investigatory powers, border and transport security. My impression is that the contingent of Tory backbenchers, who worry about the civil liberties implications of these powers are not cranking up for a major uprising on this... although I do pick up slight hints that something may be afoot in the Lib Dem ranks.

The Lords meet at 2.30pm - and while Britain has a new Bond film to look forward to, peers have a real live spy to greet - Sir Jonathan Evans, the former Director-General of MI5, becomes Lord Evans of Weardale. He will sit as a crossbench peer.

Later, it's ping pong - the Lords consider Commons' amendments to Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. This is rather a big moment, as the Lords themselves defeated the government four times (three times on judicial review and once on secure colleges), only for MPs to overturn these changes. Peers will now have to decide whether they accept the Commons amendments in lieu of their own. I suspect the secure colleges defeat - to prevent anyone under 15-years-old, being placed in a secure college - which was by a single vote, back in October, looks vulnerable and peers may accept the Commons vote to overturn it. But they may push back on some, or maybe all, of the judicial review issues.

Then, there's Lord Lipsey's regret and fatal motions on the Care & Support (Direct Payments) Regulations that Labour say currently fall well short of the government's promise on the funding of care for older people. A vote remains possible. Last business is the Childcare Payments Bill, second reading and remaining stages - the main point at issue is childcare vouchers - there are no amendments up yet, but the bone of contention in the Commons was that the scheme would benefit higher earners and does not do enough to help the less well off with childcare costs.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Northern Ireland questions, followed, at noon, by prime minister's questions.

The Conservative, Nigel Evans, has a ten minute rule bill - Planning Consent Applications (Contracts). This would mean that applicants for planning consent would have to enter into a contract with the relevant planning authority in order for planning consent to be given.

The main legislating is the Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill at second reading; and the MPs will consider the changes to the Wales Bill made in the Lords.

In Westminster Hall Christopher Chope's debate on the accountability of Ofsted (2.30pm - 4pm) and Douglas Carswell's debate (4.30pm - 5pm) on energy policy and living standards caught my eye. The latter is UKIP's first Westminster Hall debate - he says that the effect of subsidies to promote green energy is that people are being priced out of being able to heat their homes. The green subsidies, he says, take huge slice of low income family budgets - and he argues that while that may suit the energy companies and allow the government to feel virtuous, it doesn't even make sense in terms of saving the planet. "We need an honest market rather than corporate racket," he says.

In the Lords (3pm) peers return to the detail of the Modern Slavery Bill - with day 4 of committee stage consideration. The section being dealt with is on transparency in supply chains - requiring companies selling products or services in the UK to demonstrate that they have been seeking to ensure slave labour has not been involved in their supply process. The debate should also deal with the rules on gang-masters.

There will also be a short debate on the report of the Communications Committee on media plurality led by the Committee chair, Lord Inglewood.


The Commons opens (9.30am) with Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions, followed by mini question times for the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission.

The Leader of the Commons will make his weekly Business Statement, setting out the programme of debates for the coming week and then MPs turn to two debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee: the first is on the fishing industry, following representations from Frank Doran and Margaret Ritchie (among others). This is an annual, strategically timed debate - the European Council fisheries meeting takes place at the end of December and MPs representing the fisheries industry want to discuss the UK government position with the minister responsible for fisheries (currently George Eustice).

The second debate is on Ukraine and UK relations with Russia and was proposed by Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group.

In the Lords, the day is devoted to balloted debates: firstly, on the case for enabling economic leadership for cities; and secondly, on the case for new global development goals in 2015. The lunch time short debate is on the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

And the final business of the day is another short debate on the bilateral trade between the UK and Sri Lanka.

Over in the Moses Room (their Lordships' equivalent of Westminster Hall), there are five interesting-looking short debates: on the prosecution of offenders under the FGM Act; on the impact of sharia law in the UK; on the benefits of the food hygiene rating scheme certificate; on drugs policy; and on the steps being taken to combat tuberculosis.


The first and main event in the House of Lords will be the report stage debate on Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill.

He began his campaign to allow more leeway for medical practitioners to use experimental treatments on people with advanced cancer after the death of his wife, Josephine Hart, from ovarian cancer in February 2011.

Further down the batting order is the second reading of the Lib Dem peer Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames' Cohabitation Rights Bill and the report stage for the former Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman's House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill - which gives the House the right to expel peers who've been jailed or caught cheating on expenses.