Week ahead

The Parliamentary week will open with what promises to be a major helping of euro-angst in the Commons, as the prime minister reports back from the latest EU summit.

The EU Commission's demand for extra money from Britain is bound to come up - and against the background of the Rochester by-election, the result should be some pretty robust exchanges.

And that will be followed by what promises to be a very interesting debate on the detailed powers voters should have to sack their MPs - an issue many see as crucial to restoring confidence in politics. Meanwhile, in the Lords, the government has a fight on its hands defending the proposals to curtail judicial review in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Commons opens for business at 2.30pm, starting with Education questions, followed at 3.30pm by a statement from the prime minister on the outcome of the latest EU summit - which could be a pretty interesting occasion.

The day's main legislating will be the committee of the whole House on the Recall of MPs Bill, which should provide plenty of interest. Recall, a system allowing voters to sack their MP, has a strong contingent of supporters.

It is also emerging as one of those ideas which a lot of MPs absolutely hate, but to which they sign up out of self-preservation, rather as they did for the creation of their expenses watchdog, IPSA.

The government's proposal is for a system of "Gatekeeper Recall" - with MPs jailed by a UK court or suspended by the Commons Standards Committee for at least 21 sitting days, automatically having a petition to recall them opened up - if it is signed by 10% of the voters in their constituency, a by-election then follows.

But critics of this system, and there's quite a cross-party alliance, led by the Conservative Zac Goldsmith, say this proposal is flawed because it usually depends on the verdict of an internal Westminster committee. They want "Real Recall" or "Recall Max", which would allow voters to trigger a by-election if enough of them were moved to sign a petition to unseat their MP, for whatever reason.

They have put down amendments (with an impressive number of signatories) to rewrite the entire bill and replace the government's proposal with a two stage Recall process - first 5% or more of voters in a constituency have to sign a "notice of intent to recall" and that triggers a recall petition which has to be signed by at least 20% of voters. If that happens, the seat is declared vacant and a by-election follows.

The barrage of resulting amendments will be dealt with across (at least) two days of committee of the whole House debate, and it is possible that the main parties may allow their members a free vote - which raises the prospect of rival unofficial whipping operations as competing sets of backbench amendments are considered.

Mr Goldsmith has worked hard to persuade nervous MPs that his ideas won't mean it's open season on them every time they vote on a controversial issue - but anxieties on that point remain.

At this week's business questions Labour's Shadow Leader of the House, Angela Eagle, said she wanted a system where recall was invoked where there was misconduct, but could not be triggered over policy issues and a Labour amendment to that effect, has now appeared.

Mr Goldsmith, in turn, argues that the voters should decide what issues provoke them to attempt to remove their MP. His constituency lies under the Heathrow flight path and he promised his voters he would oppose airport expansion. In the improbable event he were to renege on that election promise, and support a couple of extra runways, he thinks his voters should have the option of recalling him.

He says the point of principle is that the process should be voter-led, and not susceptible to establishment manipulation through the Standards Committee (interestingly a number of MPs, David Davis and Mark Field, for example spent much of their speeches in the second reading debate complaining that the committee had displayed double standards, protecting Cabinet ministers and ending the careers of mavericks).

Mr Goldsmith is willing to negotiate on issues of detail like the precise percentages in his trigger mechanism - so watch out for "manuscript amendments" emerging from such negotiations.

It should be a fascinating day - and Mr Goldsmith and his allies may well get their way.

In the Lords at 2.30pm, the influx of peers continues. Today's arrivals are Lord Lennie, former deputy general secretary of the Labour Party, and Baroness Pinnock - former Kirklees Council leader Kath Pinnock, who will sit as a Lib Dem.

The main event is the third day of report stage debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The day's main issue is judicial review, including removing a court's discretion in some cases, on financial status, and third-party liability for costs; and on legal aid for judicial review.

Critics argue that the changes would have a seriously dampening effect on individuals' ability to challenge decision-making. And, alarmingly for the government whips, the lawyers are turning out in force - with the key figure of Lord Pannick signed up to a series of amendments, along with Lord Woolf, the retired senior judge, and Lib Dem lawyers like Lord Marks and Lord Carlile - and Labour's Justice spokesman Lord Beecham is backing a number of them as well. This is the sort of issue on which successive governments have run into trouble in the Upper House, so expect several amendments to be pushed to a vote.

And Labour's Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will propose a Regret Motion against the Care Quality Commission (Reviews and Performance Assessments) Regulations 2014.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Foreign Office questions - and then (unless ministerial statements or urgent questions intrude) there's a ten minute rule bill on the appointment of school governors from the Conservative, Neil Carmichael.

In Westminster Hall the day's opening debate (9.30am - 11am) is on copycat websites for government services - Labour's Chris Evans leads.

In the Lords (at 2.30pm) another two peers are introduced: Baroness Evans of Bowes Park - the director of the New Schools Network, who will sit as a Conservative and Lord Cashman, the former Eastenders actor and MEP, who will serve as Labour's LGBT rights envoy.

The main legislating is day two of the report stage consideration of the Serious Crime Bill. Key issues include a range of issues around protection of victims' identities, Female Genital Mutilation, domestic violence, online child protection, and training abroad for terrorism. The Lib Dem Lord Strasburger has an amendment down on protecting legal privilege and journalistic source material from being seized through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, without the permission of a judge.

And during the dinner break there will be a short debate on the long-term financial sustainability of music education hubs and the National Plan for Music Education, led by the Crossbencher, Lord Aberdare.


Commons business begins at 11.30am with Northern Ireland questions, followed at noon by PMQs.

The Labour MP Andy Sawford has a ten minute rule bill on allowing public sector operators back into the railway business - a subject Labour are pushing in both houses, at the moment. He wants to amend the 1993 Railways Act, the legislation which privatised the rail system, to allow public sector operators to bid to take over franchises, as and when they come up for re-tendering. The move has been inspired by the success of the directly-operated East Coast Main Line, where the Department for Transport stepped in after the collapse of the company which had run the service.

The main legislating in on the Taxation of Pensions Bill - this is the second reading of the measure to implement the pensions reforms promised by the Chancellor, George Osborne.

There's a promising-looking debate over in Westminster Hall (9.30am - 11am) on the Costs of the Chilcot Inquiry - don't be misled by the title the title; ministers will not answer general questions about the Iraq War inquiry, on the basis that it is an independent inquiry, but they can talk about money.

So while this may start as a discussion of how much the long-running exercise has cost, expect the debate to range rather wider, into such questions as the likely date for the publication of its long awaited report, and the shape of the government response. Will there be a statement by the prime minister? Will there be a full scale Commons debate? Commons rumour, incidentally, suggests the report may appear in December. Wily Conservative backbencher Keith Simpson leads proceedings,

Next, the Conservative David Morris raises the case for a road tunnel under Morecambe Bay, which would slash the travel time to Barrow. In the afternoon, (2.30pm - 4pm) the DUP's David Simpson leads a debate on domestic violence.

In the Lords (at 3pm) the day's new arrival is Lord Goddard of Stockport - the Lib Dem former leader of Stockport Council.

And the main debate is on devolution following the Scotland referendum. There's a certain amount of chatter among peers about the possibility that their House may be reshaped into some kind of federal UK chamber, in some new devolutionary settlement.


The Commons meets at 9.30am for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions; to be followed by mini question times for the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission.

That's followed by the weekly Business Statement from the leader of the House - and then MPs move onto two debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee - the Green MP Caroline Lucas, the Lib Dem Julian Huppert and Labour former minister Bob Ainsworth will lead a debate on rethinking UK drugs policy. This follows on from the Home Affairs Committee report in 2012, which suggested the government should investigate alternative approaches like the decriminalisation tried in Portugal.

In the second debate the House returns to a long-running theme - the issues around park homes, and, in this case, the site owner who charge a percentage fee when homes are sold.

In Westminster Hall (1.30pm - 4.30pm) there's a debate on the first joint report from the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls and the government response to them.

In the Lords (at 11am) Lord Rose of Monewden, the former £1m a year executive chairman of Marks & Spencer takes his seat as a Conservative peer.

Then there will be a government debate on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by two short debates on subjects raised by Labour backbenchers: Baroness Taylor of Bolton on giving football fans a greater say in the running of clubs, and Baroness Kennedy of Cradley on combating slavery in supply chains.

Neither House sits on Friday.