What to watch out for...

Even before Parliament has quite emptied for its summer recess, there's a touch of the Mary Celeste about Westminster.

But as the political class departs for its Tuscan villas and sun-soaked beaches, the harbingers of the next round of rows hover at the edge of vision…so as a parting shot, before I too, depart for my holidays, here are 10 things to look out for when MPs return in September.

1. A long bout of mud-wrestling over the Lobbying Bill (otherwise known as the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill), picking up from the pretty brutal exchanges in the last couple of PMQs. The Conservatives want to respond to recent allegations about lobbying with a new regulatory regime, but trade union funding is also in the mix and Labour see this as a direct and partisan assault on their finances.

The bill's second reading is in the Commons on Tuesday 3 September, and there will be three (count them) days of committee stage debates the following week - and I expect Labour to mobilise every possible parliamentary device to fight it. The debate will put an awful lot of pressure on the chair to keep order and keep the House on the procedural straight and narrow.

2. The HS2 saga rumbles on.... the report stage debate for the High Speed Rail Preparation Bill isn't scheduled for the September fortnight when MPs return to Westminster, before breaking again for the conference season; but more significant may be the publication of the Public Accounts Committee's verdict on the scheme. Having monstered HS2 officials, they seem likely to deliver a pretty hostile assessment of the costings which underpin the business case for going ahead - and that would doubtless be seized on by its opponents.

3. A chance for Tory euro-angst: peace may have broken out in the Conservative ranks after the leadership backed the private members bill for an EU referendum (see below) but the departure of Sir Jon Cunliffe, the UK's permanent representative to the EU, has created a very sensitive vacancy.

Conservative eurosceptics have long regarded UKRep as a bit suspect - enfolded in a Europhile consensus they don't accept, and far too ready to compromise on the national interest. Sir Jon, in particular, was much criticised. Now that he's off to the Bank of England, they will want to see a more congenial replacement, and more than that, they will doubtless press for MPs to have the right to approve (or reject) the government's choice.

Ministers may not fancy the idea, so watch out for the opening gambits on this, when the Commons reconvenes. There are Foreign Office questions on Tuesday 3 September, and I bet the subject comes up then. And that may well be followed by a motion via the Backbench Business Committee, doubtless signed by senior backbenchers and select committee chairs, calling for MPs to have the right of veto, if they don't like the government's preferred candidate. The logical forum for a confirmation hearing would be Bill Cash's EU Scrutiny Committee - a thought which, of itself, should make ministers (and possible candidates for the job) rather nervous.

4. Talking of James Wharton's EU Referendum Bill - it's back for more committee stage hi-jinks on Tuesday 3 September. The last committee session was an odd affair, sitting well past midnight, with the opponents of the bill doing all the talking, while supporters sealed their lips and sought not to drag out the agony. Again, there's scope for plenty more parliamentary game-playing, but the real test will come when the bill returns to the Commons for report stage. Will Labour and the Lib Dems continue their second reading tactic of abstaining, and wave the bill off to the Lords?

5. The innocuous-looking but astoundingly far-reaching Deregulation Bill. A committee of MPs and peers has just launched a consultation exercise. But one point worth noting is that - aside from the sweeping powers it gives ministers to amend the law - it would give schools the right to set their own holiday dates, a point which should be of immediate interest to every parent in the land.

6. The continuing rise of Parliament's new superclass - the chairs of select committees. What with Margaret Hodge goring and trampling multinationals over their tax arrangements, Andrew Tyrie leading the charge over banking regulation and Keith Vaz and John Whittingdale cutting a dash in their respective policy areas, the committee system has never looked stronger. And there are plenty of policy areas where they will make their influence felt....

7. Those elected committee chairs are one of the big successes of the "Wright Reforms", the beefing up of the powers of the Commons proposed by the saintly Tony Wright and a special committee of parliamentary savants, in the last Parliament.

But the reform process has now rather run out of steam, and Dr Wright is no longer in the House. So will a new reform agenda arise, and will there be a new champion to campaign for it? The 2010 intake of MPs, one old hand complains, "don't know they're born," and take for granted that they vote for committee chairs and can get business onto the floor of the House via another Wright brainchild, the Backbench Business Committee. And they don't appreciate how easily the Commons could default back to its factory settings, and clip the wings of backbenchers, if they don't keep up pressure for more change. So who'll put their head above the parapet and campaign for elections for the Committee of Selection, which chooses the MPs who do detailed scrutiny of bills?

8. Scandals. The Commons' fearsome disciplinary body, the Standards Committee, has demonstrated it has the power to force MPs to resign if they're suspended for a long period... and with lay members from outside the Westminster village now sitting on the standards committee, there is a real barrier to any attempt to go soft on wrongdoers.

9. Reshuffle: the word now seems to be that any recasting of the government will be quite modest, with few, if any, Cabinet changes, and with only a bit of churn in the junior ranks. But even if the story reads "woman in suit replaces man with glasses at ministry of paperclips", MPs nursing hopes of promotion will examine the changes in minute detail. In particular, the classes of 2005 and 2001 will be very sensitive to any suggestion that their long years of toil in opposition are being overlooked, in favour of some twitter-literate parvenu of the 2010 intake. Which brings me to...

10. Goodbyeee. With less than two years till the next election the moment is approaching for those MPs who've had enough of Westminster life to take the plunge and announce their departure. Watch out for those who'd rather spend more time with their family, money, or pets, if they're left with no prospect of ministerial office. And there may be another subset of retirees who think they'd lose at the next election, and would prefer to avoid the indignity.

And with that, this blog goes on holiday till the Commons returns in September - or is recalled to debate some crisis....

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