No walk in the park

Panic stations? From the point of view of the government whips this afternoon's emergency Commons debate on English Votes for English Laws was really rather alarming.

The debate so skilfully secured by Lib Dem ex Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael, produced a slightly pointless vote in which the Conservatives mostly abstained, but it brought all kinds of nasty tensions to the surface.

Conservative MPs are supposed to be signed up for EVEL under the terms of their manifesto, but there were clearly quite a few with doubts, some about the policy, many more about the process, which was Mr Carmichael's line of attack.

And I suspect that the underlying fear for some of the objectors on the Tory benches is actually a bit more personal; while EVEL tends to be seen as a way of dishing Labour and the SNP, it has the same effect on Tory awkward squaddies.

If the government majority on English issues suddenly soars over the 100 mark, they will cease to enjoy the kind of leverage over their leaders that they were anticipating with some relish, in the course of this Parliament. (To be sure euro-issues will mostly be whole UK issues and not subject to these provisions - but the scope for rebellion on domestic issues will be much reduced.)

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Week ahead

It's Budget week, which means that the first couple of days are devoted to parliamentary loose ends, chores and time-marking, until the Chancellor rises from his seat on Wednesday.

This will be George Osborne's first Budget as a Chancellor for a majority Tory government

So MPs will round off their detailed consideration of the Scotland Bill (watch out for the cross-party amendment on powers over abortion) and debate some, as yet, unannounced Opposition motions. All of which will leave time for plenty of ferment, plotting and manoeuvre. And there's plenty going on in the undergrowth.

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Freedom to fine?

One of the over-arching constitutional principles of the UK - set down in the 1688 Bill of Rights is this: "That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament."

I wonder if anyone's mentioned this to the European Court of Human Rights, who seem to be in the process of setting rather an interesting precedent.

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Summer lull

When will the Commons network of select committees be up and running and scrutinising ministers?

Tonight another piece of the jigsaw will fall into place when Labour MPs elect colleagues to places on the various committees (the Conservatives have already done so) - but then the House will have to go through the formalities of setting the committees. A motion will have to go on the Order Paper and will probably be waved through without debate.

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Week ahead

Deck chairs in Green Park

Summer time, and the legislating is easy; two Commons days of Scottish detail, one Opposition Day and a general debate on international security.

And a not dissimilar week in the Lords. It's the calm before George Osborne unleashes his Budget the following week.

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Votes for teens

It's been tried for the EU Referendum Bill, there's a precedent from the Scottish referendum, and now another new front in the battle for votes at 16 has just been opened.

Next Monday's Lords committee stage debate on the City Devolution Bill will include a Lab-Lib amendment calling for the voting age to be lowered in elections for the proposed new Metro mayors…. and all council elections.

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Week ahead

Is this the moment when (fanfare...) the Liberal Democrats strike back?

This week the Lib Dem peers put down a series of amendments to the Psychoactive Substances Bill which would effectively shelve it until there had been a thorough independent review of the whole spectrum of drug laws.

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Restoration comedy

State opening of Parliament

Picture the scene. It's May 2020 and the new House of Commons assembles for the State Opening of Parliament.

It could be a rather piquant occasion, as the newcomers blink at the hallowed green benches, and reflect that they may never sit on them again.

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Week ahead

Workman on roof of Parliament

Brace yourself for a couple of big Parliamentary events that won't be in the chambers of the Commons or Lords.

On Wednesday we'll have the result of the elections for the (contested) select committee chairs, and on Thursday there will be a report published on the options for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster - which will provide an early indication of whether MPs and peers may have to move out for several years, while the many problems with their main building are fixed.

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Who will run the Select Committees?

Home Affairs Select Committee

Sometime during the 2001-05 Parliament an MP complained to me "in a select committee, no-one can hear you scream". *

Since then the power of the Commons network of committees shadowing government departments or pursuing cross-cutting issues has risen sharply.

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