Week ahead in Parliament


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The Commons livens up a little next week - the demise of a Secretary of State always injects a little adrenaline into proceedings, but there isn't an obvious way for the subject of Chris Huhne to be raised. Energy and Climate Change questions are not scheduled till March 8th, and there seems little prospect, under the circumstances, of a personal statement.

But there is actual legislation for MPs to ponder - the Financial Services Bill, which is supposed to provide more robust regulation for the City and prevent another Credit Crunch. Meanwhile the Lords, a little bruised from the summary rejection of the changes they made to the Welfare Reform Bill, await their chance to address the MPs' response. At the time of writing, that has not been scheduled, and it probably will not be for another week. But many of their Lordships clearly resent the Commons' actions and will probably try to insist on any amendments not covered by the Commons' assertion of financial privilege.

Meanwhile, with the Commons half-term looming, Select Committee business is thinner than usual - the Treasury Committee, for example is visiting the emerging financial sector in China.

Monday in the Commons begins (2.30pm) with Home Office Questions - and then it's onto the second reading of the Financial Services Bill - which will be carried forward beyond the end of this parliamentary year, because there certainly isn't time for this major measure to be scrutinised in detail by both Houses before the year ends in May. The bill has already been examined in draft by a special select committee under the chairmanship of the Conservative former cabinet minister, Peter Lilley; but there is a suggestion that the conclusions of various other reviews of the credit crunch and the financial system should be fed into it before it becomes law.

And the day ends with a quintessential adjournment debate - a call from the Conservative Graham Evans to reform the Commons' system of Early Day motions, the much derided "parliamentary graffiti" which are never actually debated.

On the Committee Corridor, the Public Accounts Committee (from 3.15pm) has a session on "Accountability" which rolls together a number of issues where the Committee feels its strictures have been ignored by ministers. The witnesses are senior civil servants.

The only other hearing (at 2.15pm) is a surprise extra session of the special committee reviewing the law on privacy and injunctions; the witness is Jeremy Clarkson's ex-wife, Alex Hall, who will give evidence on the injunction Mr Clarkson took out after they divorced. Ms Hall will be accompanied by her lawyer Charlotte Harris.

In the Lords, (from 2.30pm) peers continue their detailed scrutiny of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, an omnibus bill covering everything from police records of DNA samples to civil partnerships. Labour's leader, Lady Royall has an amendment down giving the Home Secretary powers to introduce regulations to prevent or treat stalking and support victims. There's also a dinner-time debate on the regulations for the referendums on moving to elected mayors for big English cities, due to be held in May.

Tuesday begins (2.30) with Clegg-baiting, the Deputy Prime Minister's monthly question time. Then there's a ten minute rule bill on offshore betting, from the Conservative Matthew Hancock, whose Suffolk constituency includes Newmarket. He wants bookies operating in Britain to be regulated at the point of consumption (ie where the punter is) so that offshore companies have to pay the Horserace Betting Levy. With 3,000 jobs in his constituency dependent on racing, he plans to continue to push this cause.

The main business is a Labour-led debate on banking reform and a Backbench Business Committee debate on metal theft - on a motion calling for tighter licensing and monitoring of scrap metal dealers, to curb the trade in looted metal.

The Health Committee (10.30am) has a session on PIP breast implants and the regulation of cosmetic surgery, with witnesses from the NHS, the medical profession and regulators. The Business Innovation and Skills committee (10.30am) follows up its inquiry into debt management with a look at the work of the Insolvency Service, and the Transport Committee (10.05am) continues its inquiry into Road Safety.

The Defence Committee (2.30pm) continues its examination of the Armed Forces Covenant in Action with witnesses from the services families' federations - the likely subject will be the state of the services' married quarters. The Home Affairs Committee (11am) has a session on Private Investigators with various unshaven men in trenchcoats.

In the Lords, (from 2.30) it's day 8 of the 9 set aside for the committee stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill - no votes are expected.

Wednesday in the Commons starts (11.30) with questions to the Cabinet Office ministers, Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin. Mr Maude is responsible for negotiations on changes to public employees' pension schemes - so expect questions on that rumbling issue. Then it's questions to the Prime Minister. Labour's Luciana Berger has a 10-minute rule bill to give Health and Safety Inspectors powers to freeze the assets of a company under investigation, following a death or serious injury at work.

MPs then debate the grants to their local police forces and local councils.

The business on the Committee corridor is unusually thin - the Public Administration Committee continues its examination of strategic thinking in government, of which they don't appear to think there is very much. The Science and Technology Committee looks at the prospects for incorporating scientific capacity building into development aid. And the European Scrutiny Committee has a tekkie-looking session on "reinforcing the eurozone." The Scottish Affairs Committee (2.30) has the second session of its inquiry into the National Grid in Scotland, where unreliable electricity supply is a major problem in many islands. After evidence about the problems in the previous hearing, the committee has the electricity companies in their sights. And the Public Accounts Committee (3.15) looks at the introduction of the Work Programme.

If there's any drama, it is most likely to be in the Lords (start time 3pm) where, after half an hour of questions, (Labour's Lord Hoyle has a question on the compulsory micro-chipping of dogs) it's on to the report stage of the bruised and battered Health and Social Care Bill - the Government has already attempted to pre-empt its critics by offering concessions, but this is the stage at which peers may press for further changes. And this is just day one of a 7-day Report Stage.

Things look much quieter on Thursday with Culture Questions in the Commons (from 10.30) and then a general debate on Somalia. There are no select committee hearings scheduled.

In the Lords, from 11am, it's the final day of the Legal Aid etc Bill. The nine-day committee stage is just the precursor to a major drive to re-write the bill at Report Stage - when ad hoc alliances of Labour, rebel Lib Dem and Crossbench peers will make life very difficult for the Coalition.

And the Lords sit again on Friday, to debate two private members bills. Lord Selsdon has the second reading of his Subterranean Development Bill - and then it's the former Liberal Leader Lord Steel's House of Lords Reform Bill. That's a minimalist reform package, phasing out hereditary peers - it's seen as a moderate alternative to Nick Clegg's ambitious attempt to create an elected Upper House. Peers much prefer it to the Clegg plan - so expect it to sail through its Report Stage.

Mark D'Arcy, Parliamentary correspondent Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

Week ahead

The Commons summer recess looms but their Lordships have a packed legislative programme that continues into the following week.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Why worry, if anything contentious comes up the lower house will change it again! Such a nice little game of democracy being played out, as it has been for decades! Mention made for recent re-shuffle of lower house, ak speeding allegation...MR Moderator cut me down..All I said in a relevent blogg was Hell Hath No Fury,Than A Women scorned...Crikey Mrs T was one such person...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    "Tuesday begins (2.30) with Clegg-baiting"

    Hmm Clegg-baiting, presumably a slightly less difficult sport than shooting fish in a barrel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It's right that Matthew Hancock MP is concerned about tax avoidance by off-shore gameing companies in Jersey/Guernsey.

    Indeed, it's extremely disturbing that gambling - whether it's portrayed as harmless 'fluffy' bingo - or casino or poker - the UK is flooded with advertising by these tax-exempt gambling companies who, ultimately, produce nothing of worth, nor contribute to UK economy in tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Indeed Mark, you are right to point out that the Treasury Committee will be meeting to discuss the rise of the financial sector in China.

    With so many quiet amalgamations/mergers/buying up of 'stock', in stock exchanges in recent years, we should all be concerned.

    Furthermore, the FTSE is partly owned by the Financial Times. Who owns the FT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Umm, not,sure if your beng rhetorical or not?

    But Pearson own the FT, the largest stockholders in Pearson are L&G and the Libyan investment body, each of which own around 3% of the company.



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