Week ahead at Westminster

It's a half-week in Westminster, with both houses and the select committees rather ticking over before departing for a half-term break, when stumps are drawn at the close of business on Tuesday.

(Because it's a short week, this post covers the action in the main chambers and the select committees in one economy package.)


On Monday the Commons meets at 2.30pm for Education Questions.

After that we may well see ministerial statements or urgent questions.

The main business is the second reading debate on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, which has already passed the House of Lords.

It deals with the release and supervision after release of offenders, community orders and suspended sentences, the treatment of women prisoners and ex-service offenders.

Labour's amendment would decline to give the bill a second reading because it believes the government's changes to the Probation Service would make it unworkable and result in a threat to public safety.

After that MPs debate a "reasoned opinion", that an EU directive on the regulation of new psychoactive substances - new narcotics are appearing on the streets at an increasing rate - arguing that it is a breach of the principle of subsidiarity, and that the matter should be left to member states.

The day ends with an adjournment debate led by the Conservative philosopher-king, Jesse Norman, on the prosaic subject of lottery funded projects and feed-in-tariffs.

This is about crossed wires in government which led to two village halls in his patch being funded to install photovoltaic solar panels to take advantage of feed-in-tariffs, only to be forced to repay money they did not have when the government came to see the funding plus the feed-in tariffs as double-counting.

Over on the committee corridor, the most enticing-looking event is the Transport Committee's hearing on winter resilience (4.05pm).

Deliciously many of the witnesses, who are due to appear, were prevented from getting to an earlier session by the gales a fortnight ago.

The list includes officials from Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, British Airways, the British Air Transport Association, Network Rail, National Rail Enquiries and the Local Government Association.

Are small businesses still being starved of loans?

The Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) looks at the schemes led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to address problem areas in access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, in a session that follows up this report.

The committee will hear from the British Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses Barclays and from Martin Donnelly, the permanent secretary at BIS.

How is the government's drive to open up official data to public inspection working out?

The state collects an enormous amount of "objective, factual, non-personal information on which public services are run and assessed, and on which policy decisions are based, or which is collected or generated in the course of public service delivery".

Most were not available to the public and the Public Administration Committee (4.30pm) will be looking at progress in changing that with Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd, plus the National Statistician, Jil Matheson, Glen Watson, the director general of the Office for National Statistics and Sean Whellams, the head of statistics profession at HMRC.

The International Development Committee (2.45pm) looks at democracy and development in Burma with NGOs and the Foreign Affairs Committee (3.40pm) focuses on the UK's response to extremism and political instability in North and West Africa with Foreign Office ministers Hugh Robertson and Mark Simmonds.

The Environmental Audit Committee (4.15pm) ponders green finance with expert witnesses, and the Communities and Local Government Committee (4.15pm) continues its investigation into local government procurement.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) business begins with yet another introduction ceremony as Annabel Goldie, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives takes her seat as Baroness Goldie.

Questions to ministers range across making it easier to nominate a power of attorney, protecting consumers from unfair practices, UK suppliers providing components required for new UK nuclear power stations and the impact on children of living in temporary accommodation.

Then peers move on to their second day of committee stage debate on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

The main issues on part three include data protection, red tape and freedom of assembly.

The dinner break sees consideration of the same EU Committee report on the Commission's proposal on new psychoactive substances debated in the Commons.

But there could be a mid-evening row when the labour Peer Lord McFall, who served on the now wound-up Parliamentary Commission on Banking, moves a motion to postpone the report stage of the Banking Bill.

The government wants to bring it back for Monday 18th, when peers return from their half term break, which is sooner than expected.

There was a bit of a row about this on Wednesday, because it would conflict with the Church of England General Synod, and keep thus another commission member, Archbishop Justin Welby away from the debate.

Lord McFall, a former Labour MP who used to chair the Treasury Select Committee in his Commons days, wants the report stage postponed till mid-December, not least because the bill is a pretty critical piece of legislation and has more than quadrupled in size, thanks to some major changes made by the government.

It is now a very different animal and needs considerable study, he believes.

The gossip is that the government wants to make rapid progress in getting the Bill into law, so there could be quite a spat.


The Commons meets at 11.30am on Tuesday for Justice Questions.

Then, the Westminster North MP Karen Buck will present a ten minute rule bill on basement developments - a big issue in her constituency.

Her Permitted Development (Basements) Bill will deal with issues around disruption to neighbours and the structural implications for their properties.

The day's main debate is on a Labour motion calling for the abolition of the "bedroom tax" - aka the spare room subsidy.

Westminster Hall sees the usual array of debates led by backbench MPs: my eye was caught by Sharon Hodgson's debate on the East Coast Main Line (9.30am - 11am), Philip Hollobone's debate on

Iran's nuclear weapons programme (2.30pm - 4pm) and, in particular, Mark Durkan's debate on allegations of Ministry of Defence complicity in the Glenanne gang murders (4.30pm - 5pm).

The Glenanne gang was a group of Northern Irish loyalist extremists accused of responsibility for at least 76 murders during the Troubles and of carrying out attacks in the Republic.

There is a smattering of select committee business - with the highest-profile event, the appearance of the International Development Secretary Justine Greening at the International Development Committee (11.15am) to talk about the implications for development in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee (10.30am) looks at women and sport - have hopes that the triumphs of Team GB's women in the Olympics would boost women's sport been realised; if not, why not?

The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation and Women's Sport Trust, the Muslim Women's Sports Foundation, Streetgames and footballer Lottie Birdsall-Strong give their views.

Elsewhere, the Justice Committee (9.30am) hears from experts in its inquiry into crime reduction policies and the Energy and Climate Change Committee (9.30am) debate heat.

Their inquiry covers demand, the generation, and the waste of heat, including such questions as whether waste heat from various industrial processes could be harnessed by, for example, combined heat and power systems.

A series of industry experts give their views.

In the Lords (from 11am) ministers field questions on the treatments Clinical Commissioning Groups have decided not to offer to patients, encouraging banks to prioritise lending to the manufacturing sector and plans to mark the passage of legislation privatising British Rail.

Following that the committee stage debate on the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill resumes.

The key issues include protection from sexual harm, forced marriage, compensation for victims of miscarriage of justice and low value shop theft.

There will also be a short debate on ensuring pupils who have not been formally excluded but are not attending school are provided with a full-time education, led by the Lib Dem, Baroness Brinton.

And after that, both houses are off until Monday the 18th.