- 11 July 2014
- From the section UK Politics
There is some very interesting legislative action in prospect next week, as DRIP - the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill - is rushed through both Houses, while Peers gear up for a marathon debate on assisted dying.
It is also worth noting that, while the legislative load has been fairly light in the Commons, so far in this new parliamentary session, the "carryover" bills from the last one have been passed on to the Lords, where such measures as the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill have been undergoing detailed scrutiny.
Now, as the Summer break approaches, some of the measures promised in the Queen's Speech are beginning to materialise in the Commons.
To add spice to the week, there is also the expectation of a government reshuffle. It's entirely possible some of the question times listed below may feature ministers, even secretaries of state, who've only just arrived in a new department.
Here's my rundown of the week:
The Commons opens at 2.30pm with Defence Questions. After an hour of that, look out for ministerial statements or urgent questions - they're often requested to cover events over the weekend.
The day's main legislating is the second reading of the Child Care Payments Bill, which creates a scheme for the government to make a top-up payment of £2 for every £8 which a person pays towards childcare (capped at a maximum of £2,000 per child each year).
Then MPs move on to a motion to approve a report from the Committee on Standards on Respect Policy - to create a new system to deal with grievances between staff and MPs. One of the issues in the Commons is that there are in effect 650 small businesses, with MPs directly in charge of their staff - and if problems develop - which can mean anything from salary disputes to temper tantrums to sexual harassment - the secretaries, researchers, caseworkers, or whatever, don't have a clear system of recourse.
The new policy, if approved, would create a formal grievance procedure - with the Standards Committee as the final court of appeal.
In the Lords (2.30pm), Peers begin their detailed committee stage scrutiny of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - key issues include dangerous offenders; release and recall of prisoners; prisons; cautions; offences involving ill-treatment or wilful neglect.
The dinner break business is a one-hour mini-debate on human rights in Sudan.
The Commons (11.30am) opens with Health Questions
The Labour MP Steve Rotheram will present a 10-minute rule bill on the regulation of tyres after three people were killed in a coach crash caused by the blowout of a 19-year-old tyre
MPs then debate a farewell motion to mark the Retirement of the highly-regarded Clerk of the House, Sir Robert Rogers.
With the selection process for his successor under way, it's even possible that the identity of the new clerk will be revealed at some point in the week, as well.
The undercurrents around this event will bear watching. There seems to be some tension in the House over the replacement process - with accusations flying that the Speaker is seeking to select a Clerk who's more of a chief executive figure and less of a parliamentary proceduralist.
This might even see the first shot in a campaign to prevent John Bercow's re-election to the chair after the 2015 general election.
The day's main legislating will be the Second Reading of DRIP - the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill - an emergency bill following a European Court ruling on data protection.
The Home Secretary says this is a narrow bill to deal to ensure that the police can continue to use a vital crime-fighting tool, and does not amount to a stealth version of the Communications Data Bill AKA "snoopers charter" which provoked a Coalition row earlier in the parliament - and which the Lib Dems continue to oppose.
The government aims to rush the bill through before the summer recess - which implies it will have to clear both houses and have any amendments addressed before the Commons packs up on the 22nd. The opposition has pledged to support the bill - although keen to ensure proper safeguards are in place.
Watch out for the backbenchers, where key figures like David Davis and Tom Watson could cause problems for their respective leaderships.
The Commons Library paper on the Bill is here.
In Westminster Hall there are mini-debates. My eye was caught by the ones on Youth Employment (9.30 - 11am) led by ex-minister Chloe Smith, and on the political independence of charities (11 - 11.30am) a sore point with Conservatives at the moment, led by Conservative backbencher Charlie Elphicke.
In the Lords (2.30pm) there's more detailed legislating with the third committee stage day on the Serious Crime Bill.
The issues du jour include child cruelty, possession of paedophile manuals, FGM; and training for terrorism abroad.
Dinner break business is a mini debate on the future of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, detailed scrutiny of the Infrastructure Bill Committee continues in the Moses Room where peers will be looking at the forestry clauses and some Land Registry matters.
The Commons opens (11.30am) with Northern Ireland Questions, followed at noon by Prime Minister's Question Time - the last before the summer.
Then there's a Ten Minute Rule Bill - the Political Party Policy Costings (Office for Budget Responsibility) Bill presented by Labour's Alison McGovern.
This is a theme Labour have been pushing hard, that the OBR should be allowed to produce costings for the rival party policies being presented to the voters.
The main debate is on the second reading of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which would "open up new opportunities for small businesses to innovate and compete" through a wide range of provisions. Labour are already criticising it as a measure so wide ranging it can be amended to address a vast range of issues.
In Westminster Hall, the long morning debate (9.30 - 11am ) is on Ofsted and provision for 14-17 year old pre NEETs (that's young people not in education, employment or training) - it's led by Labour MP Graham Allen, a long term campaigner for early intervention to forestall social problems at an early age.
He says the UK and his Nottingham North constituency suffer appallingly high long term youth unemployment, with 1,250 young lives wasted in his patch, and he argues that the answer is to intervene well before unemployment becomes a way of life, by helping the 14-17 age group.
He wants more emphasis on pupils who, with a little help, could go on to work or training. OFSTED are finally tightening the inspection of help for this group in September.
The other debates are on the National Citizenship Service (11 - 11.30am); the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme (2.30 - 4pm); access to quality education for all children with autism (4 - 4.30pm) and the effect of welfare reform in Cumbria (4.30 - 5pm).
In the Lords (3pm) the main business is the Second Reading of DRIP - the Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill, fresh from its four minute mile through the Commons on Tuesday.
The key issue is the retention of communications data following the decision of the European Court of Justice's decision in April. Last business is the Finance Bill second reading (and remaining stages), debated together with the Economic Affairs Committee Report - this is a general economic debate as well as one on the Budget.
The Commons meets at 9. 30 for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions plus mini-question times for the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission.
The Leader of the House will deliver his weekly business statement, setting out what MPs will be talking about for the remaining days of term - and perhaps give a glimpse of the debates planned for their sitting in September.
Then, the afternoon is devoted to backbench business - and divided into bite-sized chunks. First there are a couple of Select Committee Statements: Graham Allen, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee launches their latest report: "A new Magna Carta" and Graham Stuart, Chair of Education Committee launches their report, "Safe and suitable: 16-plus care options".
Then MPs move on to three mini-debates of 90 minutes each: first is a motion on the Universal Postal Service Obligation (member in charge: Katy Clark) (90 minutes) which is followed by a general debate on education for children with autism led by Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle.
Finally there's a general debate on the position of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan (leg by Labour former minister John Denham) The Hazaras people are a Shia group primarily from the region of Hazarajat in Afghanistan, but with populations in Pakistan and Iran as well.
Some of this may be lost, if MPs have to consider Lords amendments to DRIP.
In Westminster Hall there's a general debate on the Middle East and North Africa led by the former foreign office minister, Alistair Burt.
Another interesting (if unofficial) event to look out for is the start of an All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into immigration detention - with Lib Dem Sarah Teather in the chair.
A pretty high powered panel has been assembled to hear evidence including former cabinet minister Caroline Spelman former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham and retired Law Lord Lord Lloyd of Berwick - plus an impressive list of backbenchers from across the parties.
The inquiry will examine the use of detention in the UK immigration and asylum systems, with a particular focus on the conditions inside detention centres, the impact on individual detainees and their families, and the wider financial and social consequences.
This parliament has seen a number of successful APPG inquiries on everything from cycling to stalking, and they have sometimes managed to change Government policy and even the law - and watch out for next week's report by the APPG on Women in Parliament.
Over in the Lords (from 11am) planned debates on subjects chosen by Labour backbenchers have been dropped to make way for the Remaining Stages of the DRIP.
Following this is a debate on the UK's Justice and Home Affairs Opt-outs. The Infrastructure Bill Committee stage (Day 5) continues in the Moses Room - the main issues are more on Land Registry & then zero-carbon homes
The Commons is not sitting - but in the Lords the debate on Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill looks set to be a marathon - with 110 peers already listed to speak.
It is rumoured that opponents may seek to derail the bill, which seeks to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill adults, with six months or less to live, at Second Reading.
That would be a breach of the normal Lords convention under which bills are never struck down at the first hurdle - it was last tried, unsuccessfully, by the late Baroness Young, in November 2000, against a Blair-era bill to lower the age of consent to 16 for gay men.
I don't get any whiff that the kind of organisation needed to mobilise enough peers to stop the bill is going on - opponents would have to be ready to stay in Parliament until, at the very least, early on Friday evening.
Although not being able to mobilise a majority in the Chamber would not preclude opponents from forcing a vote, just to get names on the record.
If the bill does get through second reading, it will then be debated clause by clause, at a Committee of the whole House, in the autumn.