Week ahead in Parliament

Philip Hammond outside 11 Downing Street before March's Budget Image copyright AFP

For a week or so, even Brexit is eclipsed by the Budget.

It is a moment of huge pressure on the Chancellor - and not just for the usual economic reasons - because the Tory troops will be looking for a financial package that injects new vigour and purpose into the government after a dangerously shaky interlude.

The question is whether Philip Hammond can deliver without losing control of government borrowing.

Remember that a number of recent budgets have run into real parliamentary trouble - remember George Osborne's Omnishambles Budget, the Pasty Tax, the Tax Credits fiasco, or Mr Hammond's travails over NICs?

The government's general weakness and the targeting of the Chancellor by his political rivals have created an environment in which any measure in his Budget could suddenly become a serious vulnerability.

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Let's do the maths

EU Withdrawal Bill Image copyright Hoc

OK, let's look at the numbers.

How worried should the government be, after the first 10 Commons votes on the detail of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill?

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Six figures to shape the Brexit battle

UK and EU flags Image copyright EPA

Prepare for eight days of jungle warfare in the Commons, as committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill begins.

With 365 amendments and 74 new clauses (and the certainty of more to come), any number of rival factions manoeuvring for advantage, and very high stakes in the real world as well as in Westminster, this could - should - be historic.

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Week ahead in Parliament

EU Withdrawal Bill Image copyright Hoc
Image caption The bill finally makes it to committee stage in the House of Commons

As we pass the half way point between the referendum and Brexit day, the detailed legislative battle finally commences.

The Parliamentary week will be dominated by the first two days of committee stage scrutiny of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill - the measure which provides the government with a vast range to legislative tools so that it can enact whatever version of Brexit it ultimately decides upon.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Commons Image copyright Getty Images

There's a bad moon rising over Westminster....for some MPs the recent spate of sexual harassment scandals has brought back memories of the expenses scandal, a decade ago, with the deadly threat of a mid-afternoon call from some news outlet, followed by career ruination.

There's clearly a lot going on behind the scenes, with the parties clearing the decks and brushing up on their procedures, to cope with further allegations, and the parliamentary authorities contemplating what institutional steps might be taken to provide better protection for staff in these cases.

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Review proposes to cut Lords by a quarter

Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker delivers the report to members in the Lords chamber Image copyright Getty Images

Plans to cut the size of the House of Lords by a quarter have been unveiled.

A cross-party committee of peers headed by the former civil servant, Lord Burns, proposes a "two out, one in" scheme to cut the number of peers from the current 800, down to 600 - and once that figure is reached the size of the House would be capped, with new appointments made for a 15 year term.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Easyjet plane Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Will flights be grounded on Brexit Day?

With the EU (Withdrawal) Bill now on the Commons schedule - albeit not for a fortnight - there's a continuing sense of marking time in Westminster.

MPs are chewing on relatively uncontroversial legislation, with Opposition Day and Backbench debates dotting the agenda.

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Another delay to Parliament's restoration

Elizabeth Tower Image copyright Reuters

One of the most familiar sounds in Westminster is the metallic clang of a can being kicked down the road.

And the latest such clang has resulted from a move to postpone for 18 months the decision on emptying Parliament's Victorian home to make way for a vital £4bn renovation programme.

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Week ahead in Parliament

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Media captionThe Speaker told the government, following the latest Opposition Day vote: Don't pretend you didn't lose

Still no sign of the eagerly-anticipated Commons committee of the whole House debates on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill - the mission-critical Brexit measure previously known as the Great Repeal Bill.

Westminster rumour suggests the planned eight committee-stage days will not begin until after the November half-term (although an alternative rumour suggests maybe one committee day will be scheduled to allow the government whips to test the waters) and that MPs will then have to yomp through two or three days a week of detailed debate, until the bill is done.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Job centre Image copyright PA
Image caption Could Labour's Opposition Day debate on Universal Credit see Tory MPs defy whips?

There's no Brexit Bill - so, instead, a mixture of Opposition and backbench debates fills the time in the Commons this week.

Barring the usual crop of ministerial statements and urgent questions, the only event which might set many sparks flying is Labour's Opposition day attack on the rollout of Universal Credit.

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