Week ahead

It's the last parliamentary week of 2014, with 12 or so sitting weeks after that, before the next election.

Parliament's due to be dissolved on 30 March - but may actually cease operations a bit before, perhaps as early as 19 March....triggering, heaven help us, a six week election campaign.

But while a certain torpor is creeping in, there is still a fair amount of substance to debate; we're not quite at the fag-end yet.

First up, we have two days of committee stage debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill on the floor of the Commons, with amongst other things a Labour amendment to require a vote to renew the temporary exclusion order powers in December 2016.

On Tuesday, William Hague, the Leader of the Commons, will unveil the long-awaited government paper (why the sudden fetish for referring to "Command Papers" by the way?) announcing the interim findings of the Cabinet Committee looking at ways of delivering English Votes for English Laws.

There are two big committee hearings - the Liaison Committee (Tuesday), the super committee of select committee chairs will quiz David Cameron for an hour and a half on climate change and new energy sources like fracking, and on radicalisation.

And on Wednesday, the Chancellor, George Osborne will appear before the Treasury Committee to talk about his Autumn Statement.

One thing I don't expect is another round of parliamentary ping-pong on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, where the Commons and the Lords are at loggerheads over curbs on Judicial Review and on admitting under-15s to the government's proposed new Secure College.

I suspect there will be much scurrying around to identify a compromise - especially after the embarrassing discovery that the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, had mis-explained the meaning of the Judicial Review changes to the Commons. That might be enough to give Lib Dem MPs a reason to fall in behind the Lib Dem peers who helped defeat the government on that issue, in the Lords.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Communities and Local Government questions - probably to be followed by the usual Monday clutch of ministerial statements and urgent questions.

The day's legislating is the second committee stage session on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - as well as official Opposition amendments, there is a series of amendments down from various combinations of John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, David Winnick and Mark Durkan.

That is followed by a backbench debate and vote on the controversial pension changes for firefighters in England, which the Fire Brigades Union say are "unworkable and unsustainable" and will result in 60-year-olds running into burning buildings to rescue people.

In Westminster Hall (4.30pm - 7.30pm) there's a debate on e-petition on the Millie's Trust campaign to train all nurses in paediatric first aid, led by the Liberal Democrat, Mark Hunter.

Watch out, too, for an appearance by the Home Secretary Theresa May at the Home Affairs Committee (4.30pm) to talk about the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; immigration issues, and counter-terrorism, including British fighters in Syria, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and the CIA's detention and interrogation programme.

In the Lords (2.30pm) questions to ministers include one on the appointment of a chairman for the independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The day's legislating could be bloody; the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill returns to the House for its report stage and it faces amendments from Labour's Lord Beecham and the former law lord Lord Lloyd which, taken together, delete the main clauses of the bill. Given their recent hit rate on contentious justice legislation, I wouldn't bet against them succeeding.

And that's followed by a debate on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union - following a report by the House's EU Committee.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Justice questions, after which William Hague's expected to make a statement on the English Votes for English Laws Paper (see above).

Labour MP Sarah Champion has a ten minute rule bill on Equal Pay (Transparency) - and then MPs reach their third committee stage session on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

Over in Westminster Hall, there are a couple of eye-catching backbench debates. Labour's Ian Lavery leads on human right abuses in the overseas supply chains of UK companies (9.30am - 11am) and the Conservative Zac Goldsmith raises the issue of funding for Kew Gardens (2.30pm - 4pm) - a constituency issue with national implications.

In the Lords (2.30pm), peers will rattle through discussion of a couple of relatively uncontentious measures, starting with the third reading of Lord Naseby's Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill and then the second reading of the Pension Schemes Bill, before taking all the stages of the Taxation of Pensions Bill.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for International Development Questions, followed, at noon by the last PMQs of 2014.

Then Lib Dem ex-minister Norman Baker has a ten minute rule bill on Women's Refuges (Provision and Eligibility) - it's intended to establish a minimum level of provision for women's refuges. He's concerned that without such a requirement they become easy targets for cuts in local funding - and he also wants to prevent local authorities imposing restrictive rules that would prevent women from outside their area using the refuge they fund.

The main debate will be on an Opposition motion on a subject to be announced.

Watch out for the day's big Westminster Hall debate on the Post Office Mediation Scheme (2.30pm - 4pm). Former Conservative chief whip James Arbuthnot has been fighting the cause of sub-postmasters who've lost out from a new IT system - sometimes being convicted for false accounting.

In the Lords (from 11am), it's the last pre-Christmas sitting day. The main event is the second reading of the Recall of MPs Bill - where there may be another attempt to insert the compromise proposals of Lib Dem MP David Heath for a system for removing errant MPs, based around the offence of Misconduct in Public Office, into the bill - watch out for markers going down.


The Commons lingers on for one final day. MPs meet at 9.30am for Energy and Climate Change questions. The Leader of the House will deliver the weekly Business Statement, setting out what MPs will do on their first week back, and the chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts, will make a short statement on the committee's new report on the Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework,

And the main event (if event it can be called) is the traditional end of term general debate on anything MPs happen to fancy talking about.

The Backbench Business Committee's brave attempt to give this rather amorphous occasion some shape, by grouping speeches into particular themes, with a suitable minister on hand to respond, has been dropped - so we're back to a sort of stream of parliamentary consciousness.

And after that, Hon Members and Noble Lords depart Westminster, until 5 January.