The week ahead

Parliament in autumn

National security and mega-important spending decisions dominate the coming week in Westminster, with the government's strategic defence review and the chancellor's comprehensive spending review due to be unveiled in the Commons, expect both to be heavily trailed in the Sunday papers and for subsequent detailed scrutiny on the committee corridor to expose some interesting nuances.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:

Monday November 23rd

The Commons opens at 14:30 ( GMT) with defence questions and remains on that subject for some hours, as the prime minister announces the findings of the 2015 national security strategy and the strategic defence review (he also handled the announcement of the 2010 review). This is a delicate issue across the chamber. There are plenty of Conservatives who are deeply uneasy about the state of the armed forces, even as they hoot at Labour's unilateralist leadership. A key concern is meeting the NAT0 target of 2 per cent of GDP for defence expenditure, but expect some rigorous scrutiny of what is counted towards that total; pensions? Some international aid spending?

Meanwhile Labour has some stark divisions of its own, with pro-nuclear MP John Woodcock chairing a backbench policy group, could this be an early example of different lines coming from the chair of the backbench policy group and from the official party spokesperson, Maria Eagle.

In addition, the defence select committee is due to publish a report previewing the review on Saturday 21st, expect committee chair Julian Lewis and his members to "mark the card" of the SDSR against their recommendations.

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The week ahead

The Houses of Parliament Image copyright PA

It will be an interesting parliamentary week for teenagers.

I don't get to write that very often, but under-18s who want the vote should keep an eye on both Houses. In the Commons they'll debate removing a provision for votes at 16 from the Cities and Devolution Bill, while in the Lords they'll debate adding votes at 16 to the EU Referendum Bill.

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'Awkward squad' MPs strike again

Wendy Morton, Alistair Burt
Image caption Wendy Morton watches Alistair Burt at the despatch box

Another Friday, another Private Members Bill smothered by procedural means.

Last week it was Julie Cooper's bill to provide cheap hospital parking for carers; this week the victim was Nick Thomas Symonds' Off Patent Drugs Bill.

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The week ahead

Parliament in autumn
Image caption Westminster breaks for a short autumn recess

It's a short Parliamentary week, but MPs have some contentious legislating to get through before they can enjoy a long November weekend.

Detailed debate on both the Scotland Bill (Monday) and the Trade Union Bill (Tuesday) look likely to provoke some bare-knuckle politics in the Chamber.

Monday 9th November

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Why is David Cameron so confident at PMQs?

David Cameron at PMQs

Harold Macmillan used to vomit after facing the Commons. Pitt the Younger used to fortify himself with a (whole) bottle of port. Tony Blair found the ordeal nerve-wracking. So why does David Cameron seem so supremely confident, even blase, at Prime Minister's Questions, these days?

Answer: the prime minister does not think he has much to fear from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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The week ahead


There is plenty of scope for party battles in this week's parliamentary agenda, with cuts to the police, housing policy and the EU referendum all up for debate in the various highways and byways of Westminster. What I can't spot is much scope for any new Lords /Commons clashes in the business before peers. There is plenty of room for disagreement over various aspects of the EU referendum bill, but at the moment we are in the relatively genteel committee stage, the knuckle dusters are normally only slipped on when it comes to report stage.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:

Monday November 2nd

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How to punish peers?

House of Lords Image copyright PA

As every viewer of the Alec Guiness comedy classic, Kind Hearts and Coronets, knows, when peers are hanged, the execution is performed with a silken cord.

After their defiance of the government on Monday, peers are waiting to see what instrument the government will devise for their punishment. And in particular they're keen to guess whether their former leader, Lord Strathclyde, will place a silken noose about their noble necks, or merely slap their noble wrists.

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House points

Loose ends are gradually being knitted together on the Commons committee corridor.

The latest select committee to twitch to life is the Joint Human Rights Committee, which looks likely to be chaired by Labour's former deputy leader, Harriet Harman, who is after all a former law officer as well as a luminary of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty).

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Revolt in the House of Lords?

Is the House of Lords about to go nuclear against the government; will it face massive retaliation if it does?

The corridors of the Lords are humming with rumour about the prospect that next week peers will be invited to strike down the government's tax credit cuts. And today it was reported that the government would hit back by either "suspending" the House of Lords or by creating yet more Conservative peers to give it a better chance of getting its measures through.

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The week ahead

There are a couple of votes in the Commons this week, where ministers might be defeated.

Potentially the government could suffer defeats over metro mayors in the Cities and Devolution Bill, and over English votes for English laws, but its narrow majority is only in danger if Labour MPs can muster enough cohesion to vote with Conservative rebels and after the experience of the vote on the fiscal charter this week, that's quite a big "if".

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