Week ahead

It was supposed to be a quiet uncontroversial couple of weeks, with the Commons September sitting observing pre-referendum purdah, in much the same way as MPs avoid controversial business in the run-up to local and euro-elections.

But events, dear boy, have intervened, and so the pre-arranged agenda for the first week of September may be little more than a basis for negotiation, when MPs return.

For a start, Monday looks certain to be dominated by ministerial statements on a variety of issues.

The Prime Minister is expected to report back on the deliberations of the EU summit at the weekend, which could see Britain's new Commissioner, Lord Hill, denied the major economic portfolio Downing Street hoped for.

Mr Cameron's statement may well include some response to the situation in the Middle East and - most likely - on their domestic security ramifications.

There may also be a statement on the Rotherham child abuse report, perhaps by the Children's' Minister Edward Timpson, or even by the new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

And Mr Speaker may also decide to update the House on the rolling controversy over the appointment of a new Clerk of the Commons, to succeed Sir Robert Rogers.

That could be a very interesting occasion, with his critics visibly and audibly sharpening their knives.

The Speaker is bound to face calls for the Commons to be given a chance to approve or reject his preferred candidate, Carol Mills - but may announce a reshaping of the role of Clerk, splitting the job into constitutional and executive roles. The one thing he can't afford is to set his face against some kind of confirmation hearing by MPs, and then be over-ruled by the House.

In that connection, watch out for the Backbench Business Committee - it would be open to them to re-allocate some debating time this week to allow a motion on the subject to be discussed by MPs.

Here's my rundown of next week's Commons business (remember the Lords are not back until October).


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for Work and Pensions Questions - after which expect a number of statements (see above). If there is a big reorganisation of the business for the week, the Leader of the House, William Hague will announce it at this point.

The day's main debates are on two subjects chosen by the Backbench Business Committee.

The first is hospital car parking charges - where the motion proposed by the Conservative Robert Halfon notes that some hospitals are still charging patients and their visitors upto £500 a week and calls for the government to consider ways in which the charges can be reduced.

That is followed by a debate on mitochondrial replacement techniques and public safety, expressing concern about the potential implications of new technologies which might mean children have genetic material from both their parents and from a third person, whose DNA has been incorporated to prevent diseases caused by defects in the mitochondrial DNA.The debate is led by the Conservative Fiona Bruce and Labour's Robert Flello, and the motion expresses concern at the potential risks to children born as a result of this technology.

The third debate, led by Labour's John Denham, is on the position of the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Treasury Questions. That is followed by a ten minute rule motion to set up a Business in the House Commission, from the Conservative awkward squaddie, Peter Bone.

This is an attempt to revive the slumbering controversy over the control of the Commons agenda.

The final phase of the reforms proposed in the last parliament by the Wright Committee (the special select committee on reform of the Commons, under the constitutional guru and former Labour MP Tony Wright) was supposed to be the creation of a House Business Committee, which would draw up an agenda for the Commons every week, and put it to a vote by MPs. That idea, which would have amounted to a major transfer of power from the government to parliament, has now been dropped - and Mr Bone's bill to create an external commission is pretty much a device to allow it to be discussed, briefly at least, in the Chamber.

The day's main legislation is the second reading of the Pension Schemes Bill - which would establish a new framework for private pensions, and encourage arrangements that offer people different levels of certainty in retirement or that involve different ways of sharing or pooling risk.

The bill would enact the measures announced in the 2014 Budget to give people aged 55 and over more flexibility about how to access their defined contribution pension savings from April 2015.

In "Westminster Hall" - actually relocated to Committee Room 10, the biggest committee room, because of maintenance works there will be a series of debates led by backbench MPs

The first, (from 9.30am) is on the social economy - from former communities secretary Hazel Blears. She has a long track record of pushing for policies to improve social mobility, arguing for example that a Labour government should put lending to social projects at the forefront of their plans to grow the economy.

Former defence minister Sir Peter Luff leads a debate (2.30 - 4pm) on the future of the UK aerospace industry - and Conservative David Mowat raises the effect on his Warrington constituency of the proposed route of HS2 (4 - 4.30pm).

Finally Labour former minister David Lammy has a debate on the 2009 shooting at the Massereene Barracks, in Northern Ireland, in which two off-duty soliders were killed. (4.30 - 5pm)


Business begins in the Commons at 11.30am with International Development Questions, followed at 12 noon by Prime Minister's Question Time.

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick presents a ten minute rule bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses - and that will be followed by an opposition day debate on a subject to be announced.

In Westminster Hall (again, relocated to Committee Room 10) the Conservative Charlie Elphicke leads a debate on Community hospitals (9.30 - 11am)


The Commons day opens (9.30am) with Energy and Climate Change Questions - followed by the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, William Hague.

After that the day is devoted to a series of backbench debate. Labour's Robert Flello opens a debate on an e-petition on the farming of puppies and kittens for sale.

The Conservative Jesse Norman, who has been involved in the future of his local club Hereford United leads a debate on the future of non-league football.

Finally, the Liberal Democrat Annette Brook focuses on the achievement gap in reading between poorer children and their better-off peers

In Westminster Hall (1.30 - 4.30pm) the Conservative MP Anne Main leads a debate on stamp duty and the housing market.


The first Commons debates on private members bills of the new session begin at 9.30am - with Liberal Democrat Andrew George's Affordable Homes Bill first in the queue.

His bill is intended to give effective new tools to local communities, to improve their ability of to provider affordable homes for local families. It would encourage shared equity schemes, cap the number of second homes in an area and protect families from the disruption caused by the 'spare room subsidy/bedroom tax'.

As usual with private members bills - there may well be opponents who seek to prevent them making progress by keeping the debate going until time runs out, so they are not voted on. And with this round of bills, it is also possible that supporters of the third bill in the order of priority, the reincarnated EU Referendum Bill, may seek to stop other bills getting through, to give it a clear legislative run.

So it may be that no other bills get debated and all the time is used up on Mr George's bill - but further down the agenda lurk the Responsible Parking (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Labour's Mark Lazarowicz, and the Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill proposed by the Conservative, David Davis.

Behind them - and rather unlikely to be discussed are the Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill - proposed by the Conservative Christopher Chope, essentially to satirise the bill from Lib Dem former Cabinet Minister Michael Moore to set a legal minimum for international aid spending (that's due to be to top of the agenda the following Friday) and the Local Government (Independence) Bill - proposed by Labour constitutional reform enthusiast Graham Allen, as part of his campaign for a written British constitution.