Week ahead

From the generalised debates on the Queen's Speech, Parliament makes a handbrake turn into hard legislating this week - with both Houses devoting much of their time to second reading debates on a series of heavyweight bills.

In the Commons, it's the Scotland Bill and the EU Referendum Bill - and the House will move with unusual rapidity into detailed debate on both, the following week.

Meanwhile, the Commons is inching towards re-establishing its select committee system, with nominations for 26 committee chairs due to close at 5pm on Wednesday, and the elections due to be held the following Wednesday.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The High Speed Rail Bill Committee will swing back into action this week

But one committee will swing back into action - yes, the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill Committee resumes its yomp through objections along the proposed route with two sittings on Monday and a further sitting on Tuesday.


The Commons meets at 2.30pm for defence questions, and any ministerial statements or urgent questions (a regular occurrence on a Monday) will be dealt with after 3.30pm.

The day's legislating is on the second reading of the Scotland Bill - which will deliver the proposals of the Smith Commission agreement devolving further powers over tax and welfare to the Scottish Parliament.

(The first day of detailed debate by a committee of the whole House is scheduled for Monday 15 June.)

Over in the Lords (2.30pm), questions include one from the Plaid Cymru peer, Lord Wigley, on the recommendations of the Smith Commission in response to the outcome of the general election in Scotland. The SNP don't take seats in the Upper House, so their allies from the Plaid contingent are the closest thing they have to representation there.

Then, peers turn to the second reading of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which will allow city regions to install a "Metro Mayor" - which is one of the conditions for the government devolving extra power to them, along the lines of the deal already reached in Manchester.

This legislation is the key to advancing the government's Northern Powerhouse agenda, bus some critics have concerns about imposing powerful new mayors on large cities, particularly without holding a referendum. Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford, herself a former council leader, will speak for the government.


In the Commons, business begins at 11.30am with Foreign Office questions - after which the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, will remain in the chamber to launch the second reading debate on the European Union Referendum Bill.

This is a beefed-up version of the two private members' bills the Conservatives tried to pass in the last Parliament - but this time they will have control of the timetable (watch out for the debate on the accompanying timetable motion) so they should be impervious to any filibuster.

Watch out for markers going down on such issues as the right of 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, on balance in reporting, and on funding for the rival "In" and "Out" campaigns. There is a particular concern on the Eurosceptic side that the government and the EU Commission should not put their resources behind the "In" campaign.

The government seems to be moving pretty fast with this measure; and two days of committee of the whole House debate have been scheduled for the following week. That suggests that the bill should clear the Commons, and quite possibly have its second reading in the Lords, well before the summer.

In Westminster Hall, my eye was caught be the day's opening debate, on air pollution in London (9.30am - 11am) led by Labour's Diane Abbott.

In the Lords (2.30pm), watch out for the question from the Conservative Baroness Gardner of Parkes on the government policy of extending the right to buy to Housing Association properties - this is an issue where ministers could run into heavy cross-party resistance in the Lords (a lot of peers are heavily involved in Housing Associations) - and always remember the government whips don't have a majority behind them, and can be defeated when Labour and the Lib Dems join forces. So this could be a preliminary skirmish on what may be a long-running battle.

The day's legislative business is the second reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill - the measure to crack down on so-called legal highs, which has been criticised in some quarters as too sweeping.

It should not be in trouble because Labour supports controls on legal highs and their manifesto included a pledge to ban the sale and distribution of dangerous psychoactive substances.

But watch out for Lord Paddick, now the Lib Dem spokesman on Home Affairs who said this about the bill in the Queen's Speech debate on June 2:

"It will outlaw not just specific so-called legal highs but anything and everything that has a mind-altering effect unless it is specifically listed as being exempt or is covered by other legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"I believe that an authoritarian approach, where blanket laws prohibit everything unless the Government allow it, sets a potentially dangerous precedent. The Bill is well meaning, with the current practice of selling so-called legal highs on the high street, one molecule different from a banned substance, in packets marked "not fit for human consumption", is a nonsense. But we must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of this Bill? If the purpose, as it surely should be, is to prevent harm, the misuse of drugs should be treated as a health issue and not a criminal one."


The Commons meets at 11.30am for the debut question time for the new Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Then David Cameron takes prime minister's questions at noon and follows that with a Statement on the G7 Summit

The day's main debate will be on an Opposition motion - the first of the new parliament - yet to be announced.

In Westminster Hall (9:30am - 11am) the Conservative Damian Collins, who is in the running for chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, raises the topical issue of the UK relationship with Fifa. He held an adjournment debate in December 2014 on the "Jurisdiction of the Serious Fraud Office and 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bids" in which he accused Fifa of stumbling "from one crisis to another, dogged by consistent allegations of bribery and corruption, involving some of its most senior officials, and unable to shake off the perception that it is a rotten organisation."

Later (4pm - 4.30pm) Labour MP Jessica Morden leads a debate on organophosphate sheepdip poisoning - there have been calls (including from Andy Burnham) for an independent inquiry into the use of organophosphate sheep dip during 1970s and 1980s, which, farmers say, has caused long-term health problems including blackouts and paralysis. That is followed (4.30pm - 5.30pm) by Conservative Phillip Hollobone's debate on the Effect of Gypsies and Travellers on local communities - in 2013 he proposed a private members' bill removing special provisions for Gypsies and Travellers in the planning system, arguing they led to the "ghettoisation of the countryside".

In the Lords (3pm), question time includes a call from the Shadow Attorney General, Lord Bach, for a review of Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 - which included restrictions on legal aid.

Then it's the second reading debate on the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill - which aims to protect charities from serious abuse and give them the power to make social investments. After that, the Crossbench peer and Cobra Beer magnate, Lord Bilimoria, leads a debate on the 200th anniversary of the Gurkhas' service to the Crown and the government's support of the Gurkha Welfare Trust.


The Commons meets at 9.30am for transport questions, followed by the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling. In the last Parliament, Thursdays were usually devoted to debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee - but that has not yet been reformed in the new Parliament.

Instead we have the second reading of the European Union (Finance) Bill - which puts changes in the EU's financial system into UK law. And there is talk that substantive whipped votes will become rather less unusual on a Thursday - ending the semi-voluntary status of Commons Thursdays, which grew up over the last couple of years.

In Westminster Hall, Labour's Kerry McCarthy has a debate on tackling food waste (3pm - 4.30pm). She previously introduced the Food Waste Bill, which sought to ensure that supermarkets donated more left-over food to charity instead of chucking produce away, however the bill didn't make it past second reading.

In the Lords (11am), there are debates on subjects chosen by backbench peers. The first is on the role played by civil society, in the light of the pastoral letter from the Church of England's House of Bishops 'Who is my neighbour' - led by the Bishop of St Albans.

Then Lord Loomba discusses empowering women, including widows, in the developing world to aid conflict resolution and the long-term sustainability of more stable societies and the Labour peer and former minister, Lord Wills, discusses encouraging innovation by NHS England.