Week ahead

Brace yourself for the last parliamentary action till September (barring some emergency recall).

Peers will slog through some fairly humdrum legislation and there are a couple of committee hearings on Monday and Tuesday...and while MPs return for two weeks in September, the next time both houses of parliament are in action at the same time will be 8 October....

Here's my rundown of the remaining Westminster frolics before the summer:


Peers meet at 2.30pm for their usual question time. Topics include the maximum public debt-GDP ratio in 2016-17, discussions with EU leaders about treaty changes before the proposed EU referendum and reducing the number of suicides by children in prisons. And the former Coal Board chairman (remember when there was a Coal Board?) Lord Ezra has a pointed looking question on whether there will be adequate electricity generating capacity to meet demand in the next two to three winters - a question probably not unconnected to the Lords current consideration of the Energy Bill.

The day's legislating is the eighth and final day of committee consideration of the Care Bill - where the most contentious issues are around mental health and end of life care. The crossbench peer Lady Deech has an amendment down calling for the government to review the legal rights and obligations of unpaid carers.

Peers will also debate a couple of regulations - on civil procedure and the rules of the Northern Ireland Court of Judicature.

Meanwhile, in Grand Committee (the Lords equivalent of the Commons' Westminster Hall) there's a debate on an EU Committee report on EU energy policy (at 3.30pm).

The only select committee action is the special committee on Soft Power and the UK's Influence (at 4pm) which will hear from the Mail and Mail on Sunday Columnist and Foreign Correspondent, Ian Birrell, plus Jonathan Glennie, of the Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure at the Overseas Development Institute, and Mark Pyman of Transparency International.


The Lords meet at 11am for their last day of term - beginning with a question time which ranges across greening the Common Agricultural Policy, restricting neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees, and defining electronic communications sent from the UK to a UK addressee but routed outside the UK .

And then it's on to the second reading of the European Union (Approvals) Bill. This approves two EU Council decisions - the first creating a legal obligation for an historical archive of documentation from EU institutions to be deposited at the European University Institute in Florence; the second establishes a programme, "Europe for Citizens" aimed at improving the way citizens can participate in and contribute to EU matters "by strengthening remembrance and common values, and encouraging a broader engagement and debate".

I'm not anticipating a marathon here - there are just three speakers listed at the moment, the minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Labour EU specialist Lord Liddle and Tory Europhile Lord Renton. I wonder if any of the Lords UKIP contingent will decide to weigh in?

Then, it's on to the third reading of the Intellectual Property Bill. Again, after most of the detailed disagreements were fought out at report stage, this looks like a fairly brief encounter, too.

Over in Grand Committee (from 12 noon) there's the ninth and final committee stage day on the Energy Bill - and peers will be looking at some of the meatiest issues in this highly technical measure; the electricity market reforms which are designed to underpin major new investment in the UK's generating capacity - including new nuclear generation.

Given the general controversy around nuclear energy and the vast sums of money which will ultimately be extracted from consumers to pay for new capacity, this bill could generate real political heat. But probably not in committee. So far the detailed scrutiny has been a rather seminar-like exercise, but when the bill gets back onto the floor of the House for report stage, (I assume in October, if it's not knocked back to make way for the Lobbying Bill...) the gloves will come off and the debates will become a great deal more political.

Up on the committee corridor, the special committee reviewing the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, under the retired judge, Lord Hardie, will hear evidence from the Carers Trust, Carers UK, and the National Family Carer Network (at 10.40am).

The Lords Communications Committee (11.30am) will continue its look at media plurality, with veteran TV executive David Elstein, who was chief executive at the launch of Channel 5, director of programmes for BSkyB and is now the chairman of the Broadcasting Policy Group.

The inquiry has heard wildly divergent views about whether (and how) big providers should be kept from controlling too large a share of the media, and in particular the news media. Some suggest a cap on market share (however defined) others argue that could end up restricting choice and penalising success.

And there are different views about whether the BBC should be treated in the same way as private companies or should be regulated separately, and concerns about the rules allowing foreign ownership of British media.

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