Week ahead at Westminster

It's a week of detailed legislating in both Houses, with MPs and peers tackling a series of big, complex bills - and proposing some important changes.

The debate on the Banking Bill (see below) is beginning to look a little unwieldy, with massive amendments of fiendish complexity cascading down, from all directions. There are already murmurs that the bill, and the regulation system it seeks to create, has become impossibly complex.

Meanwhile, more newly-ennobled peers take their seats in the Lords, including a number with heavyweight devolved and local government experience.

Here's my rundown of the week:

(Apologies, incidentally, for the late arrival of this post, I was rather bogged down last week.)


Monday in the Commons begins (2.30pm) with Work and Pensions Questions - which may be followed by ministerial statements or urgent questions.

The main business is the report stage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill - where quite a number of causes will be pressed.

Conservative MP Mark Field will be putting down a marker for future amendments in the Lords for "super-ASBO powers" to control low level criminality by immigrant gangs - an issue in London and other big cities, he says.

And the government is supporting amendments from another Conservative, Nicola Blackwood which would give new powers to pursue civil court orders against suspected child sex abusers through Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Orders - even if they cannot be prosecuted in a criminal court.

There was a major grooming scandal in her area and she is being supported, among many others, by Labour's Simon Danczuk, who saw a similar scandal in his Rochdale constituency.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) business begins with the introduction more of the latest wave of new peers - the Lord Bishop of Sheffield and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, the Conservative leader of the opposition in the Welsh National Assembly.

Questions to ministers range across supermarket pricing, the procedure for the appointment of bishops in the Church of England and the steps taken by the Ministry of Defence to retrain and re-home dogs when their military duty is complete.

And look out for the Labour veteran Lord Barnett's question on discussions between the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England.

This is not just because, as a former Treasury minister, Lord Barnett usually has a pointed follow-up in mind, but because it is his 90th birthday, so expect a graceful tribute from the minister responding.

After that, Peers move on to their second report stage day on the Care Bill - key issues include end of life care, continuity of care, safeguarding, and amendments intended to avoid a postcode lottery) - some of which may be forced to a vote.


Tuesday in the Commons opens (11.30am) with questions to the deputy prime minister and the attorney general.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn presents a ten minute rule bill on regulation of the private rented sector - and then it's on to the remainder of the report stage and the third reading of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

In the Lords 2.30pm business begins with the introductions of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon the community campaigner and mother of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager murdered in a racist attack in South East London in 1993 and Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, the Lib Dem former leader of Somerset County Council - and former advisor to Paddy Ashdown.

After the ceremonial, peers move on to question ministers about whether the Russian-led Syrian peace initiative provides a model for defusing other international, whether the Financial Conduct Authority has the authority to assess and monitor consumer finance products and the steps being taken to arrest the decline in the number of foreign language students .

Then the House moves on to its second committee stage day on the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, where there are some very long and complicated Government amendments to be introduced by the Treasury Minister Lord Deighton, and some carefully-crafter offerings from various members of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

First up is an amendment from the Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey, co-signed by "Blue Labour" guru, Lord Glassman, calling for the Government to report to parliament within six months of passing the bill, on how it will increase competition in the banking sector, by making the banks operate in a more decentralised, regionalised way.

He's keen to get a discussion going on how ministers propose to loosen the stranglehold of the very big banks, who dominate 80 per cent of the UK market.

And Lord Sharkey also has an amendment on payday loans, calling for the government to introduce the kind of controls which now operate in many states of the USA - capping the amount borrowed, the interest rates payable and requiring the operators to set up a database, so borrowers can only take out one loan at a time.

Other key issues include depositor preference, the Financial Service Compensation Scheme, "bail in", professional standards, and the governance of the Bank of England.

The former chancellor and commission member, Lord Lawson has an amendment down giving the governor of the Bank of England power to intervene if he thinks banks are lobbying too much to change the regulatory framework for financial services.

And Lord Lawson has also co-signed a couple of amendments, alongside Parliamentary Commission colleagues Lord Turnbull and Lord McFall calling for regular reviews of the so-called "ring fence" that banks are supposed to maintain between their retail banking and investment banking operations, with an independent reviewer in charge.

They're also offering an amendment on a "general requirement for separation."

It's worth remembering that at this stage of consideration, there's an element of shadow boxing about all this.

While the government amendments may well go through, those from backbench peers will mainly be designed to extract a response from ministers, and, depending on that response, the issues raised may then be pressed further at report stage.

The dinner break debate, led by the crossbencher, Baroness Howarth of Breckland, the former chief executive of ChildLine, is on the sadly-topical subject of preventing child sex abuse.


On Wednesday the Commons meets at 11.30am for Northern Ireland questions, followed at noon by prime minister's question time. The Conservative David Morris will propose a ten minute rule bill seeking - after recent events - to define and protect Gibraltar's right to territorial waters under UK law, so that there can be no doubt where the territorial waters of Gibraltar are located.

Labour lead two opposition day debates - on zero-hours contracts and on high streets.

And the day ends with the Lib Dem, David Heath, newly exited from the government, leading an adjournment debate on a constituency issue, Ansford railway bridge.

In Westminster Hall (from 9.30am) there are the usual series of debates led by backbenchers the first is on improving access to psychological therapies - led by the Conservative, James Morris, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, who has been campaigning for mental health conditions to be treated with the same seriousness as physical ailments in the NHS.

My eye was also caught by Glenda Jackson's debate on blacklisting (2.30pm - 4pm) where a number of MPs want to see how ministers plan to react to a big change in the attitude of the construction industry, where blacklisting of workers has been going on for decades.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) the arrival of new peers continues with the introduction of Lord Whitby - Mike Whitby, the Conservative former council leader in Birmingham, Britain's largest local authority, where he remains the leader of the opposition.

Question time covers steps being taken to curb the late night purchasing and consumption of alcohol, the exclusion of citizens of northern Cyprus from the benefits of EU membership and plans to introduce self-financing photo identity cards on a voluntary basis to establish citizenship status.

Then peers move on to more report stage consideration of the Care Bill - key issues include votes on human rights, OBR funding assessment and mental health aftercare provision.

Watch out for amendments from the Lib Dem Lady Barker, who has long taken an interest in mental health issues, to require local authorities to provide independent advocates for people with complex care needs, who may have difficulty understanding the system and their own requirements.

The Crossbencher Lady Meacher has another amendment requiring the use of properly qualified staff in the assessment of adults with complex care needs.

There will also be a short debate on the supervision of offenders by the private and voluntary sectors after the planned reorganisation of the probation service - led by the Lib Dem QC Lord Marks of Henley on Thames.


The Commons gathers at 9.30am on Thursday for energy and climate change questions, which will be followed by the weekly business statement from the Leader of the House.

The Backbench Business Committee, which controls a slab of debating time in the Commons, has chosen debates on the government's defence reforms and on funding support for deaf children and young people.

Keep an eye on the first of those.

The Conservative John Baron is leading a cross party alliance concerned that the government's plan to cut 20,000 regular service personnel and replace them with 30,000 reservists is unworkable, and that recruitment to the reserve forces is already falling well below what is needed.

Their motion calls for the scheme to be "paused" and reconsidered.

Earlier in the week there will be a march and lobby by Fusiliers against the cuts to their regiment.

In Westminster Hall there will be debates on two select committee reports: from 1.30pm - the Transport Committee's report on the Coastguard, emergency towing vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.

This is followed at 4.30pm by the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's report on the contamination of beef products.

In the Lords 11am the latest peers to take their seats will be Lord Carrington of Fulham - Matthew Carrington the Conservative former MP for Fulham, and Lord Leigh of Hurley, a merchant banker.

At question time there seems to be a bit of an energy theme: the Lib Dem former chairman of the Coal Board, Lord Ezra, will ask whether there will be adequate energy supplies to meet demand next winter, and the Conservative former cabinet minister Lord Forsyth will ask about the investment required over the next decade to ensure energy supply for the UK.

As normal on a Thursday, the main debates are led by backbench peers - with two crossbenchers choosing the subjects: Baroness Meacher on drugs policy and Lord Luce on the future of the Commonwealth, in the wake of the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

And there will also be a debate on the report of the special select committee set up to consider the impact of demographic change on public services.

This rather alarming document warned that the UK is woefully underprepared for the rapid aging of its population which will take place from about 2030.

And the committee chair, Labour's Lord Filkin, has not been impressed by the government's formal response, which he said, showed that ministers were 'wilfully underprepared' to address the issues. Health Minister Earl Howe will give the government's response.


Private members bills are back in the Commons on Friday (from 9.30am).

First up is déjà vu all over again, with the second reading of the House of Lords Reform (No. 2) Bill.

Conservative backbencher Dan Byles is presenting the latest incarnation of the "Steel Bill", the former Liberal Leader Lord (David) Steel's measure to create a retirement mechanism for the House of Lords and allow it to expel peers who are convicted of serious criminal offences.

Different versions of this bill have appeared every year for some years now - partly as an alternative to Nick Clegg's plans for an elected upper House.

Now the Clegg proposals have been seen off, the government seems to be warming to this latest version of the bill, which does at least tidy up some of the most serious anomalies around the Lords.

An earlier version also included the abolition of the by-elections for places among the 92 hereditary peers - allowing the rump hereditary element of the Lords to fade gradually away, as its members ascended to the celestial senate.

That element of the earlier versions was defeated by a determined guerrilla action, and is not expected to re-appear.

I expect that bill to occupy most of the morning, but a bill from another Conservative backbencher, Graham Evans, might just scrape a second reading.

His Drug Driving (Assessment of Drug Misuse) Bill aims to clamp down on drivers intoxicated by something other than alcohol.

Former DEFRA Secretary, Caroline Spelman, has a bill on property blight compensation - not unrelated to HS2, but I'd be surprised if that made it to the wicket.

There are an awful lot of other bills on the agenda, including Peter Bone's measures to abolish the deputy prime minister and withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights - but it will be worth watching to see if the Conservative Michael Ellis manages to persuade the government not to object to his widely-supported Medical Innovation (No. 2) Bill, thus allowing it a formal second reading.

If an MP shouts "object" when the list of bills not debated that day is reached, the bill will die; if they don't it can move forward into committee.