- 20 June 2014
- From the section UK Politics
There is quite a lot of heavy legislative lifting this week, as MPs deal with the leftovers from the last Parliamentary session, but I suspect the main political excitement may come more from ministerial statements about the situation in Iraq and the problems in the passport office.
Here's my rundown of the week
Monday 23rd June
The Commons (from 2.30pm) opens with Work and Pensions Questions.
Any statements or urgent questions to ministers will follow at 3.30pm - and then MPs move on to the report stage and third reading of the Deregulation Bill - which is one of the left-overs carried over from the last parliamentary year.
This is one of those cross-cutting bills that have ramifications across several policy areas, so expect a barrage of disparate amendments from all quarters, followed by furious complaints if time runs out before particular issues can be addressed (a possibility always increased if there is a statement or UQ, or even more than one....)
The Conservative MP Brooks Newmark wants to create a presumption that byways open to all traffic should be diverted so as to not pass through residential or business premises. Meanwhile the Green MP, Caroline Lucas wants to require minister to produce a plan to replace affordable homes lost in England as a result of Right to Buy.
Finally, Conservatives Philip Davies and David Nuttall want to extend Sunday Trading hours.
Labour's transport team are targeting an attempt in the bill to simplify taxi licensing - which they think could pose a safety risk to passengers. They have an amendment down to remove the clauses dealing with the issue, altogether.
In the Lords (from 2.30) there's more new legislation in the shape of the second reading of the Armed Forces (Services Complaints and Financial Assistance).
This creates an enhanced service complaints headed by a powerful new Service Complaints Ombudsman, able to investigate complaints, recommend action to the Defence Council to put matters right, overturn a decision to exclude a complaint, and require the production of information and documents.
The debate is expected to be fairly short, because this is not a controversial measure - and it will be followed by a general government debate on the Armed Forces.
Tuesday 24th June
The Commons opens at 11.30am with Treasury Questions - and then MPs polish off another carry-over bill, the Wales Bill - at report stage and third reading.
With a bit of pre-referendum tension in the air, and MPs beginning to scent a new devolution deal after the Scottish vote in September, the mood music, and precise language used by ministers will get considerable scrutiny.
Meanwhile Plaid Cymru has put down a series of amendments to devolve the ability to provide infrastructure guarantees to the Welsh Government; decouple the borrowing powers available to the Welsh Government in the bill from being used on building an M4 relief road; devolve responsibility for 100 per cent of income tax to Wales; and devolve the ability to hold binding referenda to Wales.
In Westminster Hall, the Labour MP Katy Clark's debate on Human rights in Saudi Arabia - (9.30 - 11am) caught my eye.
In the House of Lords there is one debate on two motions - the first on the constitutional future of Scotland in the light of the referendum [attendance may be interesting because this clashes with the England-Costa Rica game] and the second on the Constitutional Committee's report on the constitutional implications of Scottish independence for the rest of the UK.
Wednesday 25th June
The Commons meets at 11.30am for half an hour of Cabinet Office Questions, followed by Prime Minister's Question Time at noon.
The day's main debates are on opposition motions - the first will be on the Private Rented Sector and the subject of the second is yet to be announced.
The day ends with an adjournment debate on cycle safety around buses, led by the Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris.
It looks like an interesting day in Westminster Hall, where, intriguingly, the Lib Dem MP Sir Bob Russell raises the question of the inclusion of the North American War of 1812-1814 in the history curriculum. This is the occasion when British troops burned down the White House and the US Congress (11 - 11.30am).
Cerebral Labour ex-minister John Denham leads a debate on teaching British values, (2.30 - 4pm) and Col Gaddafi's biographer, the Conservative Daniel Kawczynski, has a debate on Anglo-Libyan relations (4.30 - 5pm).
In the Lords (at 3pm) there are debates on commemorating the First World War, and on the security and political situation in Iraq.
Thursday 26th June
The Commons day begins (9.30am) with Business, Innovation and Skills Questions, followed by the weekly Business Statement setting out what MPs will be doing for the next couple of weeks, from the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley.
Then MPs move on to debate the Programme of Commemoration for the First World War.
Over in Westminster Hall (1.30 - 4.30pm) there will be a chance to debate the Public Administration Select Committee's report on Migration Statistics and the Government response to it.
In the Lords (from 11am), the day's main events are Lib Dem debates on the role of the voluntary and charitable sectors and on preventing and addressing the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
There will also be (at around 2pm) a one-hour debate on plans to promote British values in all UK educational establishments.
For Lords-watchers, this is Oona King's front bench debut, as aLabour Whip on education and equalities.
Friday 27th June
The Commons is not sitting but the Lords will have their first Friday devoted to Private Members Bills - and there will be three second reading debates:
Lord Saatchi will present his Medical Innovation Bill which will give more flexibility in allowing doctors to try reasonable innovative treatments, as long as they have the agreement of a qualified panel of medical specialists, their responsible officer and the patient or the patient's representative.
He argues that there has been little progress in developing new treatments for many cancers and other diseases, because the existing rules are too restrictive. An attempt was made to bring in a similar measure in the Commons, in the last parliamentary session.
The Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, from the Crossbencher Lady Deetch, deals with division of money and assets in divorce (and on the dissolution of a civil partnership as well).
She says change is needed because the basic law on this has not been debated in Parliament for 30 years despite profound changes in society (women at work, divorce itself no longer based on fault, and commonplace, civil partnerships and same sex marriage.)
Finally, there is the Parliamentary Privilege (Defamation) Bill. This is a short bill to deal with an anomaly in the law around the special protections given to parliamentarians repeal of Section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996. - which is a legacy of a nineties court case involving then Conservative Neil Hamilton.
It provides that where the conduct of a person in proceedings in parliament is an issue in defamation proceedings, he or she may waive the protection of Parliamentary privilege given by Article 9 of the Bill of Rights, allowing the Court to examine the MP's conduct without infringing Parliamentary privilege.
One anomaly is that this gives special rights to parliamentarians because it is not possible to counterclaim for damages for a slander spoken in Parliament even against a claimant MP who has himself waived privilege for the purpose of the proceedings.
Watch this space.