'Zombie parliament' shows signs of life

Houses of Parliament
Image caption Critics say there is little work for MPs to do at Westminster over the next few months

As more and more MPs desert Westminster to campaign in their constituencies, it's become fashionable to dismiss the institution as a "zombie parliament".

A light legislative framework with few compulsory votes and a long election campaign have led to suggestions that MPs don't have enough work to do. Some MPs - with little more than 40 sitting days left before polling day - openly agree.

But away from the heat and light generated by the run-up to polling day, there has actually been some legislating going on.

On Monday, MPs debated the Serious Crime Bill, two elements of which owe their origins to campaigns by Welsh MPs.

Home Secretary Theresa May acknowledged that Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, had pressed for greater protection to be offered to domestic abuse victims via a new offensive of coercive of controlling behaviour in intimate personal and family relationships.

She said: "With over one million calls for assistance to the police each year for domestic abuse-related incidents, but only 78,000 prosecutions, it is clear that the criminal justice response to domestic abuse is woefully inadequate. The new offence will provide an additional charging option where there is a pattern of non-violent controlling conduct, the cumulative impact of which can be no less traumatic for the victim."

The same bill includes a clause to reform the law on child neglect, an idea first presented to parliament by Ceredigion Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams.

He told the Commons: "This is an important issue. The effects of emotional abuse have been shown to be lifelong and profound. I used to be a primary school teacher, and I could often see those early signs in the classroom."

Mr Williams said he was pleased the words "ill treat" are now followed by "whether physically or otherwise" and that should include emotional neglect although some critics are sceptical the definition will be precise enough.

Elsewhere, Llanelli Labour MP Nia Griffith used an adjournment debate to press the case - dismissed by the government - for the compulsory state registration of hairdressers. She went head-to-mane with Nicky Clarke on today's Daily Politics.

Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane spoke up for the regeneration of Rhyl and Prestatyn in a Westminster Hall debate on seaside towns.

And away from Westminster, former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain rehearsed some of the arguments from his new book on the case for higher public spending and borrowing.

His successor-but-three Stephen Crabb unveiled his "vision" for the Welsh economy.

Apart from all that, and the continuing row over the NHS, it's been a quiet week in the "zombie parliament".