Week ahead

The last rites of the 2013-14 Parliamentary session will be performed, probably by Wednesday afternoon - and in the meantime MPs will keep busy with detailed consideration of a series of bills which will not be finally pushed through the Commons until mid-June.

There will be final pre-election appearances at the despatch box for Nick Clegg on Tuesday and David Cameron on Wednesday - and a little spice may be added by the election to one of the top select committee jobs, the chair of the Defence Committee.

But the whole atmosphere in the Commons may be very different when MPs re-assemble in June, for the Queen's Speech, in the backwash of what could well be a dramatic set of local and European Parliament elections.


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Defence Questions - a crucial opportunity for candidates for the chair of the Defence Select Committee to strut their stuff, ahead of a hustings at the Parliamentary Labour Party this evening...

Then MPs move on to consider Lords amendments to Care Bill; there isn't that much to discuss, given that the government made two concessions yesterday (over the "hospital closure clause" and over extending the Human Rights Act 1998 protection to people whose care is arranged or funded by government).

Then it's the first day of Report Stage consideration of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

The big political story on this Bill revolves around the amendment from Tory backbenchers, led by Nick de Bois, who want automatic six-month jail sentences for any offender caught in possession of a knife twice - a scheme opposed by Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, but which has the "sympathy" of Ed Miliband.

This is unlikely to be played out on Day One, and any alliance between Tory backbenchers and Labour to vote this through in the teeth of Lib Dem opposition will have to wait until the Report Stage resumes in June, after the Queen's Speech.

In the Lords (2.30pm) the main event is ping-pong on the Immigration Bill.

Will peers accept the latest Commons verdicts on two key issues: guardians for trafficked children and deprivation of UK citizenship where it could make someone stateless?

On the later issue, I understand Lord Pannick, the Crossbench Peer and human rights lawyer feels the government has now made a substantial concession, so he may not prolong his resistance.

Peers will also debate a regret motion on the Misuse of Drugs Statutory Instrument on Khat - continuing the resistance in the Commons to the decision on its classification as a Class C drug, against official advice.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Questions to the Deputy Prime Minister - this is normally a pretty bare knuckle occasion and with a controversy over knife crime and looming elections it could be nastier even than usual.

Then MPs debate a motion to implement proposals from their Standards Committee on regulating the activities of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).

One of the factors in the heavy punishment imposed on departed MP Patrick Mercer was his creation of an APPG as part of a paid lobbying effort - and there's rising concern that such groups can be vehicles for improper lobbying.

But there is also concern that tighter rules could destroy groups which do valuable work.

MPs then move on to the first Report Stage day of debate on the Consumer Rights Bill.

So far this Bill hasn't attracted much attention, but now it may have its moment.

Labour are promising an amendment, to force a vote on their plans to ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants.

Labour's proposal would see estate agents no longer able to charge a letting fee for renting out properties in addition to requiring a deposit and the first month's rent upfront.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents says the plan "risks pushing fees... further under the radar."

Meanwhile the government is under considerable pressure to find time in what may be a rather light day to allow MPs to consider the Procedure Select Committee's report on Private Members' Bills - and its key recommendation, to guarantee that the bills proposed by the top placed MPs in the annual ballot for the right to bring in a bill should have a vote at the end of their Second Reading debate.

The aim is to ensure that their bills can't be filibustered to death at an early stage; it doesn't guarantee that they would pass Second Reading, but would force opponents to try to kill them in the open, rather than by stealth.

It's slightly odd that these proposals were not included in the batch of "House Business" debated by MPs on Thursday - perhaps because it might have ramifications for a second Conservative attempt to bring in a private members bill on an EU referendum.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) The House of Lords Reform Bill (AKA the Steel/Byles Bill) is expected to get its 3rd Reading without much ado.

This is the measure which allows Peers to be expelled for serious misconduct and to retire.

It is the last vestige of what started as a rather more ambitious scheme for a tidied-up appointed Upper House.

Any further ping-pong on the Immigration Bill will follow, if needed.

Afterwards there's a promising-looking debate on the Constitution Committee's Report on the implications of coalition Government.


This will probably be the last day of term - with MPs gathering at 11.30 am for Welsh Questions, which will be followed by David Cameron's last PMQs outing till June.

Keith Vaz, an active campaigner on diabetes related issues will present a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Food Labelling (Sugar Content) and then MPs embark on the first day of Report Stage on the Deregulation Bill - the amendments tabled so far look pretty humdrum - sharing of information about English apprenticeships, the sale of alcohol at community events, disclosing information for the purposes of certain litigation and apprenticeship payments - but this bill is so wide ranging that someone could decide to stir things up.

We should also get the result of the vote for the Chair of the Defence Committee - replacing the departing James Arbuthnot - all MPs can vote, but the post is reserved for a Conservative, under the share-out of committee chairs agreed at the start of the current Parliament.

I while ago I suggested that Keith Simpson (currently PPS to William Hague) was the favourite; Commons gossip suggests the leading candidates are now Julian Lewis and Rory Stewart.

In the Lords (from 3pm) it looks like a pretty light day, unless ping-pong on the Immigration Bill is still running.

Peers will debate a number of Statutory Instruments on copyright in a job lot and there will be a short debate on abuse of the elderly.

The ever-entertaining ceremony of prorogation is likely after an adjournment - savour the Norman French! Giggle at the synchronised doffing of cocked hats!

Although that pleasure could be postponed to Thursday in the unlikely event that there are unresolved ping-pong issues to be dealt with.