Week ahead

We're getting into the end of Parliament season, when debates and even legislation target hot button electoral issues. Hence Labour's opposition day on Wednesday on energy prices - a theme Ed Miliband returned to over the weekend - and the coalition motion on budget responsibility, targeting Labour's perceived weakness on the deficit.

And of course we've got the return of the Tony to look forward to, as the former prime minister appears before the Northern Ireland Committee on Tuesday.

Elsewhere the week's parliamentary highlights include another round of ping-pong between Lords and Commons over whether 15-year-olds should be sent to the government's new secure colleges, and some speed legislating to reform stamp duty.

And as the Lords begins its consideration of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, there's the prospect of more ping-pong to come. This was, of course, scheduled before the Charlie Hebdo attack - so will those events that change the balance of the debate, in the traditionally more civil libertarian house?


The Commons sits at 2.30pm and business opens with defence questions, after which MPs will gallop through all stages of consideration of the Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill, which enacts the shake-up of stamp duty promised by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement.

Then, it's on to another round of Parliamentary ping-pong on the Consumer Rights Bill. MPs will look at Lords amendments requiring secondary ticketing operators to be more transparent, including the provision of information concerning the name of the seller, the face value of the ticket, any age restrictions on the ticket, and details of the seat location.

The Lords meets at 2.30pm, and the first business will be the introduction of a new peer, Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London, who will sit as a crossbencher. There are a couple of eye-catching questions to ministers, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and on safeguarding village life.

The day's main legislating is the second committee stage day on the Pension Schemes Bill - where the main focus will be on the guidance guarantee - the free, impartial guidance the Chancellor, George Osborne, promised to people about to retire, on what to do with the money in their defined contribution schemes.

There's also a short debate led by Labour's Joan Bakewell, on the steps being taken to encourage elderly people to prepare living wills and powers of attorney.


The Commons day opens (11.30am) with health questions - the snarking of the Hunt - which on current form could become every bit as nasty as questions to the deputy prime minister, given Labour's increasing focus on the NHS.

Conservative Martin Vickers, a local government veteran, has a ten minute rule bill to allow people who've objected to planning permission for a development to have a right of appeal if it is granted and to allow binding referendums on planning issues.

The day's two main debates are on updates to the Charter for Budget Responsibility and on the new National Policy Statement on national transport networks.

And there's another round of Parliamentary ping-pong, this time on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, where peers are pressing a number of amendments which MPs have already rejected.

More are on changes on the law around judicial review, but the Lords have also to insist on previous amendment to prevent any female, or male under the age of 15, being placed in a secure college.

In Westminster Hall, the two big debates are Sir Edward Leigh's on grammar school funding (9.30am - 11am) and Kate Green's on changes to the probation service (2.30pm - 4pm) and UKIP MP Mark Reckless will lead a debate on the Governance of Network Rail (4pm - 4.30pm).

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) the main event is the second reading of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - the government was promising to look again at the possibility of judicial safeguards for the power to refuse a British subject accused of terrorism abroad the right to return to the UK.

And there are a range of practical considerations on the working of the law. So look out for markers put down by the minister, Lord Bates, the Opposition, and the Lib Dems - and of course for influential crossbenchers like the superlawyer, Lord Pannick. Because this is a second reading, the real detailed issues will not be fought out until later stages, with the usual preliminary skirmishing expected at committee stage, and perhaps some agreed government amendments on the key issues, and maybe some set-piece battles to follow at report.

One factor in the discussion may be the verdict of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in a report due to be published on Monday.


The Commons day opens (11.30am) with Scottish questions, followed at noon by prime minister's questions. The Labour MP David Winnick has a ten minute rule bill to create a civic obligation to vote in elections or register an abstention.

The day's main debates are on Opposition motions on energy and on the steel industry.

In Westminster Hall, the SNP's Pete Wishart leads a debate on House of Lords reform (9.30 - 11am) - his party have a long-standing policy of not participating in the Lords, which is why there are no SNP peers...and that factor might hamper them in delivering a post-election deal to sustain a Labour government, something which has been the subject of considerable speculation.

The big afternoon debate (2.30pm - 4pm) is on government support for businesses in the North of England led by the Conservative, David Rutley.

In the Lords (at 3pm) the main business is detailed debate on the Recall of MPs Bill - the main issues are on the principles of the bill and on a range of important practical and operational considerations.

And that will be followed by a short debate on the report of the Communications Select Committee, on media plurality.


The Commons sits at 9.30am for culture, media and sport questions and women and equalities questions, to be followed by the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House William Hague.

The main events are two debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. First there's a debate on a motion from Alistair Burt, Jason McCartney and Diana Johnson, calling for a further review of the haemophilia suffers and others were infected by contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, following a report by an All-Party Group.

Then there's a motion from Labour's Geraint Davies, calling for the UK and EU parliaments to have the right to scrutinise the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP. Unusually, there's also an amendment from the Green MP Dr Caroline Lucas, which is much more critical of TTIP, warning that it poses an unacceptable threat to the NHS, and could result in undemocratic law making on employment rights and food standards and other areas. It concludes by calling for the government to push for the TTIP talks to be frozen.

In Westminster Hall from 1.30pm - 4.30pm, there will be a debate on national commissioning of NHS specialised services led by the Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert.

In the Lords (from 11am) questions to ministers include one on efforts to persuade the US to lift its ban on the import of haggis.

Then onto the main debates, chosen by backbench peers.

Baroness Bakewell will focus on the natural environment, the case for reducing polluting emissions, improving green transport and protecting wildlife and green spaces. And Baroness Tyler will discuss the importance of mental health care provision. There will also be short debates on emergency services and on reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in the developing world.


It's private members' bill day in both houses. In the Commons (from 9.30am) the first debate on the batting order is the report stage of the Conservative Jake Berry's Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill - which guarantees local councils the right to hold prayers in their meetings.

He brought the bill in because of a ruling in the High Court, when a councillor in Bideford town council attempted, successfully, to stop the town council having prayers on its agenda, despite the practice dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I. The bill was given a formal second reading without debate, so this will be its first real airing in the Chamber.

After that, the indefatigable Tory awkward squaddie Christopher Chope monopolises the agenda, with second reading debates on bills on Control of Offshore Wind Turbines, Asylum (Time Limits), Bat Habitats and Employment Rights. None of these have any chance of becoming law - but they do provide him with a chance to raise issues he's concerned about

In the Lords (from 10am), peers continue with their detailed discussion of Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill. Again this is a measure with no chance of becoming law - at least in this Parliament. But Lord Falconer, a wily former Lord Chancellor, is keen to hone it with further detailed debate, and to put pressure on all the parties to guarantee debating time for a future version of the bill, after the General Election.