- 6 June 2014
- From the section UK Politics
After its May hiatus, Parliament returns to a curious kind of half-life, with the debates in both chambers centred on the Queen's Speech - there will be a different theme in each House on each day.
At the moment it looks as if there will only be the normal pro-forma votes at the end. There doesn't seem to be much appetite amongst the Tory awkward squad to engage in the kind of boat-rocking which produced last year's John Baron amendment to the Loyal Address, regretting the lack of an EU Referendum - which led to the startling sight of a government allowing a free vote on an amendment to its own Queen's Speech.
Perhaps the silence from that quarter is one sign that the next election is beginning to loom large. Instead, Tory MPs can look forward to the morale-boosting ceremonial arrival of their latest colleague - Newark by-election victor Robert Jenrick, probably on Wednesday.
Question times will resume on Tuesday - but there's nothing scheduled for debate in Westminster Hall, and only a smattering of additional items beyond the Speech on the Order Paper.
But watch out for a couple of bits of Parliamentary arcana: the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee is elected annually, and the deadline for nominations falls on Tuesday afternoon - will anyone challenge its founding Chair, Labour's Natascha Engel? On Thursday, there will be the annual ballot for the right to bring in a private members bill, with the result known at about 9.30am. Expect the top Tory on the list to re-introduce the James Wharton Bill for an EU Referendum, kicking off another long intricate procedural battle...
Will Labour and the Lib Dems try to kill the Bill, either in the Commons, or in the Lords?
Will the Conservatives try to invoke the Parliament Act to force it through? The exciting climax of this particular saga will unfold around next March.....
In Committee-land, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee journeys to Belfast, for two days of evidence-taking on the handling of the "on the runs" issue - and whether an effective amnesty was granted to terrorist suspects who were not in jail when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. This continues back in Westminster with a hearing with former Secretary of State John Reid.
And so to the week's business....
The Commons (2.30pm) continues the debate on the Queen's Speech - with this section devoted to health. Watch out for Conservatives who fancy taking the chair of the Health Select Committee, vacated by Stephen Dorrell, taking the opportunity to flourish their plumage.
MPs will also debate a motion to approve a "reasoned opinion", on EU policy on undeclared work. This sounds a bit arcane but it relates to paid activities that are lawful in nature but not declared to public (tax) authorities. The EU Commission has proposed a draft Decision which would establish an EU "Platform" to strengthen cooperation in preventing and deterring undeclared work - because it reduces the tax base and is linked to poor working conditions and precarious employment. The UK government questions whether the EU has competence to require mandatory participation and whether the action proposed is consistent with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
Over in the Lords (from 2.30pm) questions to ministers include one from ex Tory Europhile, turned Lib Dem, Lord Dykes about the Candidate(s) for President of the new European Commission - a chance to canter round the controversy over whether Jean Claude Juncker should take the post.
After Question time peers return to the Debate on the Queen's Speech - focusing on home affairs, law and justice, health and education.
The Commons meets at 11.30am for Health Questions - and then move on to debate the Home Affairs aspects of the Queen's Speech
In the Lords (2.30pm) the question to watch may be Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asking why the Queen's Speech didn't include a measure to modernise the regulation of the healthcare professions -
And then the Queen's Speech debate continues, with the focus on business, employment, pensions, welfare, agriculture and the environment.
The Commons convenes at 11.30am for Northern Ireland Questions, followed at noon by Prime Minister's Question Time. Then it's back to the Queen's Speech, where the topic of the day is jobs and work.
In the Lords, peers gather at 12.30pm and launch straight into the constitutional and devolved affairs, foreign and Commonwealth affairs, defence, international development and culture section of the Queen's Speech - breaking at 3pm for their daily Question Time.
The Commons meets at 9.30am for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions, followed by the mini-question time for the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission. Then it's the economy and living standards section of the Queen's Speech debate - and the week's action in the Chamber concludes with an adjournment debate on re-assertion of the Royal status of the town of Sutton Coldfield - led by Andrew Mitchell.
In the Lords (from 11am) questions to ministers include one on combating human trafficking and modern slavery - which may be an early shot in the battle to add an amendment on slavery in the supply chain for goods and services sold in the UK, seen as a major omission from an otherwise welcome bill.
Then, having disposed of the Queen's Speech, peers enjoy two backbench debates with the Conservative, Lord Cormack, leading off with a debate on the importance of the English parish church, followed by Labour's Lord Harrison on the contribution of the tourism and hospitality industries to economic growth in the UK and the EU, and finally, there's a debate on addressing the health inequalities found by the Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities.