Week ahead

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There won't be many weeks between now and the likely date of the EU Referendum (23 June), when someone doesn't contrive to have some kind of Commons debate on some aspect of the EU.

Next week it's the DUP's turn. They're picking up the complaint made by the three first ministers, that that a referendum campaign culminating in a vote on that date, will impinge on the elections to the devolved parliaments.

Next on the Richter scale of political angst will be the annual debate on funding for local councils and police authorities in England - which will doubtless feature predictions of a collapse in key services. And after that there's an eclectic cocktail of railways, floods, rogue landlords and circus animals....

Meanwhile watch out for the election for the chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, where four Labour MPs are vying for the post vacated by Huw Irranca-Davies: Mary Creagh, Geraint Davies, Chris Evans and Barry Gardiner.

Over in the Lords, it's a rare week without the prospect of a government defeat, or indeed a vote of any kind...but fear not. Peers are merely gathering their powers for running battles over the detail of the Trade Union Bill and the Housing and Planning Bill, a bit later on.

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Week ahead

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It's probably a bit early to be talking about a zombie Parliament, but the coming Westminster week, with a surfeit of uncontroversial legislation, Opposition Days and Backbench debates, does recall the dog days of the last Parliament.

Of course the agenda can be livened-up, at short notice, by ministerial statements or urgent questions, and there are a number of very big issues coming down the track (the date of the EU referendum, the mammoth Investigatory Powers Bill, the Trident vote) but the current quiet in Westminster leaves plenty of time for leadership speculation and euro-plotting.

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House points

The fly-fishers are back; when the chairs of select committees were up for election last summer, MPs learned to dread running the gauntlet of glad-handing candidates who would lurk at various strategic bottlenecks angling for votes.

The departure of Huw Irranca-Davies, who's quitting Westminster to seek a seat in the Welsh Assembly, has created an opening for a chair of the Environmental Audit Committee - which he has only held for a couple of months. That committee chair has been allocated to the Labour Party - but all MPs across all parties have a vote in the election, which will be held next week.

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Week ahead

It's a week of fairly humdrum legislating for MPs and peers, but there are at least three major legislative events lurking in the background, and we might get some hints about their timing.

If the forthcoming EU summit goes according to David Cameron's plans, there may well be a vote to set the date of the EU membership referendum (three statutory instruments setting out the timing and ground rules for the campaign are expected to arrive pretty soon).

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How a bare-knuckle battle could play out

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The government's latest defeat in the House of Lords could put the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, under some pressure to save key elements of the Trade Union Bill.

Wednesday's vote was on an innocuous-looking motion to set up a special select committee to examine the sections of the bill dealing with political funding by unions and report by the end of February.

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Week ahead

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Sugar and trade unions provide the main points of interest in the forthcoming week in Westminster....

In the Lords, a move to set up a special select committee on party funding may tee-up an amendment to the government's Trade Union Bill, which could result in defeat for ministers in a few weeks' time; in the Commons, Thursday's backbench debate on childhood obesity will continue the push for a tax on sugary drinks, as part of a wider anti-obesity strategy, by the wily health committee chair, Sarah Wollaston.

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Week ahead

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Even in the scant three Commons sitting days we've had in 2016, the tension and more particularly the angst, detectable in the chamber has been striking.

It seems that despite the festive break, pre-referendum tension on the government side, and faction fatigue on the Labour side, are taking their toll.

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Week ahead

David Cameron leaving summit Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The prime minister will be reporting back on December's EU summit

MPs open 2016 with a three-day week, starting on Tuesday, but it could be anything but gentle.

The theme likely to dominate the political year - the EU - will confront them, almost immediately, in the shape of a statement from the prime minister. They can also expect plenty of discussion of the flooding with a statement to the House.

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The year ahead at Westminster

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After the election, the numbers in both Houses of Parliament looked pretty daunting for the government whips.

In the Commons, the Conservative majority of 12 looked paper-thin, and susceptible to all manner of rebellions from a variety of different quarters: in the Lords, the Conservatives, for the first time in their history, faced the prospect of governing without a majority of peers behind them.

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The week ahead

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We've reached the fag end of 2015 and MPs have already begun their Christmas break; peers, who are made of sterner stuff, have scheduled two more legislating days before they depart.

Monday December 21st

The Lords meet at 2.30 (GMT) and their opening half hour of questions to ministers will cover plans to reduce the number of suicides on railways (Lord Faulkner of Worcester); VAT evasion by overseas online retailers (Lord Lucas); Minimising the risk of neural tube defective pregnancy (Lord Rooker) and encouraging leaders of the UK's Muslim communities to identify, confront and expose their violent co-religionists (Lord Pearson of Rannoch).

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