The week ahead

Mark D'Arcy
Parliamentary correspondent

Image source, Getty Images

We've reached the fag end of 2015 and MPs have already begun their Christmas break; peers, who are made of sterner stuff, have scheduled two more legislating days before they depart.

Monday December 21st

The Lords meet at 2.30 (GMT) and their opening half hour of questions to ministers will cover plans to reduce the number of suicides on railways (Lord Faulkner of Worcester); VAT evasion by overseas online retailers (Lord Lucas); Minimising the risk of neural tube defective pregnancy (Lord Rooker) and encouraging leaders of the UK's Muslim communities to identify, confront and expose their violent co-religionists (Lord Pearson of Rannoch).

The main legislative action is the final day of committee stage scrutiny of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. As usual at this stage it is rare for issues to be forced to a vote, but peers will study closely what the minister Lord Freud has to say in response to a battery of amendments, and will sharpen their lines of attack for the ensuing report stage, where votes are more regular events.

The amendments cover the such issues as the impact of the benefits cap for "kinship carers" and on people placed in temporary accommodation by a local authority which has found them to be in priority need.

There will also be a short dinner break debate on retail banks and vulnerable customers.

Peers gather at 11:00 ( GMT) and their last question time of 2015 will cover the percentage point gap in early years attainment between the poorest children in London and those in the north of England (Baroness Massey of Darwen); The number of jobs being created in the tourism sector, and recognition and support for the sector in light of this (Lord Lee of Trafford) and revising the Politics A-level curriculum (Baroness Parminter).

Then it's on to the second reading of the Immigration Bill, which aims to tackle illegal immigration by making it harder to live and work illegally in the UK. It includes measures to deal with illegal working and block illegal migrants' access to services like housing and banking. And there are also measures to support enforced removals.

By convention, peers do not refuse a second reading to a government bill promised in an election manifesto, but expect plenty of attempts to amend this one when it reaches report stage, and watch out for opposition speeches flagging up the areas they intend to target.

And with the end of business, Parliament goes into a brief holiday hibernation. MPs emerge, blinking, into 2016, on Tuesday January 5th, when David Cameron will report back on the latest EU summit. The Lords do not return until the following week.