Week ahead

We're really into the last rites now.

The Budget and the ensuing debate on it dominate the week's proceedings in the Commons - but there are some important odds and ends that the business managers seem keen to deal with before Parliament dissolves.

In the Lords, the week's big clash will be on the plain packaging of cigarettes order, where, unusually there's an attempt to block it.

Here's my rundown of the penultimate week of the 2010 Parliament:


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Communities and Local Government questions - and as usual any urgent questions or ministerial statements would normally be taken at 3.30pm.

Then MPs will be invited to rattle through motions to approve a couple of important-looking Statutory Instruments. The first is on counter-terrorism - there seem to be quite a rash of these at the moment. It would be nice if the Parliamentary website included some way of discovering what, exactly, they will do.....and next comes the Draft Drug Driving (Specified Limits) England and Wales (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

And after that there's another legislative fag-end: the Transport for London Bill - this is a private bill (a bill affecting a private interest, in this case TfL's, as distinct from a private members' bill) which has been bouncing around Parliament since January 2011.

It gives new powers to dispose of property to TfL and has long been opposed by a number of MPs with concerns about issues around transparency, tax avoidance and the selling off of assets. It has popped up from time to time on the order paper for particular days, only to be pulled when it became clear they would prevent it going through on the nod. With time running out before the election, it now seems it may actually be debated - but I understand a number of MPs, including John McDonnell, will be lying in wait with hostile amendments.

Over in Westminster Hall (4.30pm - 7.30pm) there will be a debate on an e-petition on veterans pensions.

In the Lords (2.30pm) peers open up with a round of ping-pong with the Commons on the Deregulation Bill - the sole outstanding issue is the volte face on the decriminalisation of non-payment of BBC license fee. This is followed by ping-pong on the Armed Forces (Service Complains) Bill - the key issue here another government concession, which extends for the ombudsman's powers of complaint.

The bills are followed by two important Statutory Instruments - with a vote expected on a fatal motion from the former Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lord Naseby, to strike down the draft standardised packaging of Tobacco Products regulations. Its supporters believe they'll have the numbers to ensure the win in the Commons is not overturned. There's also a take "note motion" from Labour's Lord Hunt of King's Heath on the City of Birmingham (Scheme of Elections) Regulations.

And the day will end with a short debate on the impact the Supreme Court's March 2014 judgment on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards has had on healthcare - led by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Justice questions, after which Labour MP Jim Hood has a ten minute rule bill aimed at requiring candidates in elections to public office to disclose criminal convictions.

Then there's a bit of ping-pong on the Modern Slavery Bill - after a government defeat in February. added an amendment to give greater protection to overseas domestic workers, by making it harder for immigration and visa rules to be used against them by their employers.

After that, MPs consider a series of changes to the Commons internal policing recommended by their Standards Committee - the main one is to put more non-MPs onto the committee, which deals with accusations of breaches in rules and ethics by MPs. This is intended to forestall accusations that MPs mark their own homework.

The party business managers clearly expect a bit of time to be left over after all of that - so they've crowbarred in a Backbench Business Committee debate on Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen held in Guantanamo Bay. The motion calls on the US government to release him and allow him to return to his family in the UK.

Meanwhile, in Westminster Hall the debate to watch looks to be the Labour MP John Mann's - on government support for survivors of child abuse (4pm- 4.30pm).

In the Lords (2.30pm) it's the third reading of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill - where the key issues include regulation of PubCos, late payments and the exclusion of the Equality and Human Rights Commission from the regulatory requirement to promote economic growth.

Then, the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, which gives the Northern Ireland government some flexibility over its corporation tax rates. As a money bill, it's not something the Lords would normally make problems over - hence the rapid processing.

And after that comes another money bill: the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, and again all stages will be taken in a single gulp.


The Commons opens at 11.30am with International Development questions, followed by the penultimate prime minister's questions of this Parliament. What new insults will join "despicable" and "chicken" in the cannon of acceptable parliamentary abuse?

For once, PMQs will be overshadowed - the Chancellor George Osborne will present his Budget Statement, and the resulting Finance Bill will be put through the following week, and seems unlikely to contain anything particularly surprising. It's entirely possible we may see a further budget after the election; a majority government or a new or reconfigured coalition might want to do something different.

The Budget Debate - which will be organised into subjects depending on its content - will then continue on Thursday, Friday and Monday.

In the Lords (3pm) peers will canter through the committee stage of the House of Commons Commission Bill - as I write, no amendments have been tabled (which is not a particular surprise since it would not be considered good form for the Lords to interfere in an internal Commons measure) so this is likely to be a rapid, formal exercise.

Then peers move on to a couple of short debates, first on the report of the select committee on Affordable Childcare and second on the protection of interpreters and translators working in conflict zones around the world.


The Commons opens at 9.30am with Energy and Climate Change questions, followed by William Hague's weekly Commons Business Statement - where the main point of interest will be whether the government is able to be more precise about when the House will rise for the election.

After that, the Budget debate continues.

Over in Westminster Hall (1.30pm - 4.30pm) there's a debate on the future of local newspapers.

In the Lords (11am) there are debates on three committee reports: the report of the Select Committee on the Inquiries Act, 2005; of the EU Committee Report on the impact of the European Public Prosecutor's Office in the UK; and of the Science & Technology Committee Report on International science, technology, engineering and mathematics students, the recommendations of which have been rejected by the government.


The Commons meets at 9.30am for the continuation of the Budget debate.