Week ahead

The Commons meets at 2.30pm on Monday for Home Office questions.

Then, unless ministerial statements or urgent questions intervene, the Home Office team will then remain in their seats for the second reading of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

This is one of those "Christmas tree bills" which has all manner of legislative baubles hanging from it. It includes measures on dangerous dogs, terrorism, extradition, firearms, forced marriage and even court fees. Quite a number of backbenchers want minor tweaks to various measures - so watch the home secretary's response to people like Conservative Nick de Bois, who has proposed some refinements to the proposed "community trigger", under which local people can prod the police into action if they believe they are not responding to some particular problem...

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) questions range across the future of London's airports, the situation of religious minorities in Egypt since the Arab Spring and the use of new experimental drugs by terminally ill patients. Then peers move on to the second committee stage day devoted to the Care Bill - key issues up for discussion include training for NHS staff under the new body, Health Education England, including ensuring the right numbers of staff are trained to meet future needs, and NHS research and innovation under the new Health Research Authority.

In the dinner break, peers consider an order to approve additional Advocate Generals to the CJEU, the Court of Justice of the European Union, which interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and which settles legal disputes between EU governments and EU institutions.

In Grand Committee in the Moses Room, peers will be continuing their detailed scrutiny of the Mesothelioma Bill, focusing on the levy on insurers and the machinery for dealing with insurance disputes.


The Commons convenes at 11.30am for Health questions, and then MPs move on to the report stage and third reading of the Children and Families Bill - we seem to be back in the bad old days where these two stages of a bill are taken in a couple of quick gulps, rather limiting the opportunity for backbenchers to offer up amendments.

The bill deals with childcare and issues concerning looked after children, and there are plenty of amendments around. For a start, the government will have to offer up changes to deal with the outcome of the intra-coalition spat on childcare ratios, where the policy advanced by the minister, Elizabeth Truss has been vetoed by Nick Clegg.... rumour has it she plans to "shoot her own dog," and the result might well be a nasty little coalition family row.

There's also a big all-party amendment (signed by numerous Labour MPs, plus such luminaries as Lib Dems Annette Brooke and John Leech, Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd, the SDLP's Mark Durkan, and Conservatives Andrea Leadsom and Robert Buckland) to increase the age to which foster children get state support from 18 to 21, on the grounds that family help to most young adults doesn't disappear on their 18th birthday, and extending support can do a great deal to improve their life chances. Word is that this is a "probing amendment" designed to tease out what the government thinks of the idea - and allow supporters revisit the issue when the bill goes to the Lords.

Robert Buckland seems to be quite busy, because he has another amendment on help for young carers, the former Children's Minister Tim Loughton has a battery of amendments down as well, covering such matters as ensuring part-time independent educational institutions to have no right to give corporal punishment and a right to support services for looked after children returning to the family home.

There are Labour amendments on creating specialist courts to deal with child sexual abuse cases and to toughen up the requirements for sex education - there seems to be an appetite to force a vote on that issue. And the Labour MP Alex Cunningham has an amendment to create a new offence of failing to prevent smoking in a private vehicle when children are present.

There are plenty of important points of detail that MPs would like to address - but the time available looks pretty limited, and many of the amendments probably won't be reached. And if there is a ministerial statement, or an urgent question, the whole report stage will become pretty perfunctory. MPs are also due to debate a motion on the order to approve additional Advocate Generals to the CJEU which was before the Lords on Monday.

Over in Westminster Hall there are debates led by backbenchers - my eye was caught by the Conservative and military historian Keith Simpson's debate (10.30am - 11am) on Parliament and commemorating World War I. There are also interesting looking debates on fuel poverty and use of pre-payment meters (Mike Weir) and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and power to impose civil fines (Steve Barclay).

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) questions to ministers cover the increase in atmospheric carbon levels and Ofsted's critical report on personal, social, health and economic education in schools.

Then peers move on to their second committee stage day on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill - key issues include the piloting specialist courts to deal with cases involving military veterans, with, for example, expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder, the release and supervision of short sentence offenders, drug offenders, and the general releasing of offenders.

There is a dinner break debate on transferring a portion of the international aid budget to the Ministry of Defence, led by the Ulster Unionist, Lord Empey. The Intellectual Property Bill starts in committee in the Moses Room - with peers to debate clauses on design rights including ownership, infringement exceptions and registration.


The Commons opens for business at 11.30am with International Development questions, followed by PMQs at noon. The main debate will be on an as yet unannounced Labour motion or motions....and the day will end with an adjournment debate on audio recording of work capability assessments, led by Labour's Sheila Gilmore

Over in Westminster Hall (11am - 11.30am) the Green MP Caroline Lucas will seek to highlight media sexism - and the Conservative Eleanor Laing has a debate on last year's police and crime commissioner elections (from 2.30pm - 4pm).

The Lords begin their day (at 3pm) with the second reading of a private bill, the Humber Bridge Bill, which gives new borrowing powers to the board controlling the bridge. This may take just moments, and then they're onto their question time - where the government will be asked for its view on Russian government policy toward NGOs.

Then it's back to committee stage debate on the Care Bill where peers will peruse a new part of the bill dealing with the government's response to the Francis Report on Mid Staffs NHS Trust. This covers care standards, the failure regime for NHS Trusts and introducing a new offence for care providers who deliberately mislead the public with false information such as on morbidity rates at hospitals or care institutions.

The dinner break debate is on the relationship between business and society, and there will also be a chance for peers to consider statutory instruments in the Moses Room, on subjects including Legal Aid and the Draft Child Support and Claims Payment Regulations.


The Commons meets at 9.30am for Business, innovation and skills questions - which will be followed by the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley.

The day's main debate is on a subject chosen by the Backbench Business Committee - the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. It is, admittedly a little late for the anniversary, but a cross-party list of MPs think it's high time the 2010 House of Commons had a chance to revisit the subject. Speakers in the debate are likely to include Tory foreign affairs and Middle East guru Rory Stewart, ex-army officer Col Bob Stewart, Caroline Lucas of the Greens, former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and Labour's Paul Flynn.

Meanwhile, over in Westminster Hall (from 1.30pm - 4.30pm) there's a chance for MPs to debate the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee report on Dog Control and Welfare, and the government response to it.

In the Lords (from 11am) questions to ministers cover recent comments made by senior members of the German government about the UK's membership of the EU and the condition of frescos in the Royal Gallery - this is the large hall behind the chamber of the Lords, where the frescos, which depict the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, once formed the backdrop to a visit by President Sarkozy of France.

Then it's on to Conservative-led debates on the government's priorities at the meeting of the G8, and on the importance of culture and arts to the economy. While over in the Moses Room peers will be continuing with the committee stage of the Intellectual Property Bill - key issues are unauthorised copying of designs, patents and the Unified Patent Court.

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