- 5 October 2012
- From the section UK Politics
MPs may still be immersed in the dubious delights of the conference season but peers are back in parliament next week.
They face four hard days legislating and quite possibly a couple of votes on the fine detail of a key government measure - the Local Government Finance Bill. With at least some Conservative peers likely to be attending their annual jamboree in Birmingham, a government defeat or two is certainly possible.
Monday kicks off (2.30pm) with question time - which, in the Lords, can range across the full spectrum of government activity. Subjects to be raised include ending the duty exemption for biofuels and implementing the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, reducing drink-driving, the number of new business enterprises in the UK and encouraging new start-ups and the need to build on the success of British sport in summer 2012.
Then the House resumes its marathon detailed scrutiny of the Financial Services Bill - with the sixth of ten days at committee stage.
The Liberal Democrat Lord Alderdice will lead a short dinner break debate on the provision of mental health services, with the Health Minister Earl Howe due to reply.
Meanwhile in the Lords' parallel chamber, the Grand Committee (from 3.30pm) peers are due to scrutinise a series of regulations and then turn to a promising looking short debate on the running of zoos in the UK and the EU. Labour's Lord Harrison will open proceedings - and since he's a Cheshire Peer, expect some happy reminiscences of Chester Zoo.
Tuesday's business begins at 2.30pm with questions - and the subjects down for discussion include further appointments to the House of Lords during the current Parliament - an interesting issue after the demise of the government's Lords Reform proposals. The question has been tabled by Labour's Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. Another ramification of the demise of Lords Reform, the cost of the current parliamentary constituency boundaries review, which has now been vetoed by the Liberal Democrats, will also be raised. And Plaid Cymru's Lord Wigley will ask about the cost of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
At 3pm peers will turn to the Defamation Bill - a measure promised by the government to end the "chilling effect" of the libel laws. Its key advocate is the Lib Dem super-lawyer Lord Lester, who extracted a rare promise of new legislation from the Justice Minister Lord McNally in an earlier Lords debate on the issue. But critics are not satisfied with the proposed responsible reporting defence and other aspects of the Bill.
There's also an interesting-looking dinner time debate on the strength of Britain's industrial base, led by the former Transport Secretary and uber-Blairite policy wonk, Lord Adonis. There are more short debates over in Grand Committee (from 3.30pm) covering the contribution of further education colleges to their local economies and communities, cancer of the head and neck, and the human rights situation in Bangladesh. But there may be particular interest in the debate on UK Trade and Investment and SMEs, because it is due to be answered by the Treasury Minister Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint who has been criticised for failing to show his face in the House
Lady Butler-Sloss's special select committee examining the adoption laws meets at 10:15 to hear from social policy expert Professor Eileen Munro of the LSE.
And so to Wednesday, when peers will convene at 3.00pm for question time. On the agenda are evidence-based treatment in the National Health Service, the strategy for abolition of the Death Penalty 2010-2015, and the cost of generating electricity by hydropower.
Peers then turn to the first of two Report Stage days devoted to the Local Government Finance Bill - a measure with wide ranging implications for council tax payers, those who receive council tax benefits and for businesses, because it proposes the re-localisation of business rates. This is the stage at which amendments tend to be forced to a vote, and Labour has already signalled its opposition to key sections of the bill - with particular concerns around its proposal to localise the way Council Tax Benefit is distributed. Might some Conservative peers have to be recalled from Birmingham to bolster the government vote?
There will be a little culture at the dinner time debate, which is on the funding of UK conservatoires - centres for music. The debate is led by Lord Lipsey who chairs Trinity Laban, UK's only conservatoire of music and dance. He is also Chair of the All Party Classical Music Group.
On Thursday (11.00am) peers question ministers on the closure or restriction of opening hours of NHS walk-in centres, the turnout in the elections for police and crime commissioners, which will be held in November, and the availability of major national sporting "listed events" on free-to-air television. Then they turn to two debates led by backbench peers. The Bishop of Chester leads on child development in the UK and its bearing on national wellbeing, whilst the Liberal Democrat Lord Maclennan speaks on the potential break-up of the UK: the case for considering an alternative constitutional settlement.