Week ahead

David Cameron leaving summit Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The prime minister will be reporting back on December's EU summit

MPs open 2016 with a three-day week, starting on Tuesday, but it could be anything but gentle.

The theme likely to dominate the political year - the EU - will confront them, almost immediately, in the shape of a statement from the prime minister. They can also expect plenty of discussion of the flooding with a statement to the House.

Elsewhere the Commons ticks over with some serious legislating, a bit of backbench business and some opposition day debates, but the focus may be on internal debate within the Conservatives (on the EU) and within Labour (on the rumoured shadow Cabinet reshuffle).

Here's my rundown of the week ahead.

Tuesday 5 January

MPs return to their Chamber at 2.30pm for Health questions.

Then it's the week's biggest event - the prime minister's statement on the EU summit held just before Christmas, in which he made his pitch for a renegotiation of British membership terms. This could be the opening shot of the referendum campaign (a deal done at the February summit could mean a referendum in June).

The key thing to watch here is the reaction of Tory backbenchers. Hard core "outers" savaged the Europe Minister, David Lidington, when the renegotiation objectives were announced - and can be expected to be tough on their leader; but will he get a rough ride from some unusual suspects? That could portend real trouble ahead.

There will also be a statement on the floods, presumably from the DEFRA Secretary, Liz Truss.

The Labour MP Mike Kane will seek leave to bring in a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Mesothelioma Compensation. This looks like a revival of the bill he introduced last March, just before the election. It would have required a statutory contribution to research into the deadly lung cancer, mesothelioma, from each of the estimated 150 insurance company firms active in the employers' liability insurance market.

After that MPs turn to the detail of the Housing and Planning Bill - report stage. The official Labour amendments from shadow housing minister John Heeley would broaden the purpose of the bill to expanding the supply of all housing, rather than focusing on starter homes, and would call for adequate infrastructure to support them. They also want affordability of starter homes to be defined in relation to local economic conditions, and they want a price cap in London, which could only be changed in consultation with the Mayor.

There are all kinds of amendments from other sources including one from the Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron, which would ensure that new developments include a range of affordable housing options, to rent and buy.

And there's an intriguing alliance of the Conservative former Cabinet minister, Maria Miller and Labour's John Mann. Their new clause would require all starter homes not only to be subject to the statutory regime of building inspection controls, but also to comply with a requirement for site inspection records and a report on compliance, which would be available to home buyers. Mr Mann also has a hand in another amendment (along with Alex Cunningham) to require resilience against flooding to be a consideration in the zoning and design of new housing.

The day ends with an adjournment debate on the future funding for S4C - led by the Welsh Conservative, Simon Hart.

Meanwhile, in Westminster Hall, one of the hard core of "better off out" Tories, Philip Hollobone, will lead a debate from 9.30am to 11am on the renegotiation of UK membership of the EU - an appetiser for events in the Chamber later.

The other mini-debates in Westminster Hall are on: regional theatre (Will Quince) from 11am to 11.30 am; safer neighbourhood policing in London (Karen Buck) 11.30am - 1pm; health effects of air pollution (Paul Flynn) 1pm - 1.30pm and the relationship between the UK and Kazakhstan (Bob Stewart) 1.30pm - 2.30 pm.

Wednesday 6 January

The Commons day opens at 11.30am with Scotland Questions, followed, at noon by Prime Minister's Question Time.

The day's Ten Minute Rule Bill is from the Lib Dem ex-health minister Norman Lamb, who has long called for a process to build a national consensus around the future of the NHS and social care. His bill would establish an independent commission to examine the future of the National Health Service and the social care system.

The day's main debate will be on an Opposition motion - not yet announced, but my guess is flooding and flood defences.

In Westminster Hall the subjects for debate are: child prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Sarah Champion) 9.30am - 11am; assistance to refugees in Calais (Andy Slaughter) 11am - 11.30am; food security (Derek Thomas) 2.30pm - 4pm; broadband speeds in Northern Ireland (Margaret Ritchie) at 4pm - 4.30pm and healthcare in the Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre (Kate Osamor) 4.30pm - 5.30pm.

Thursday 7 January

The Commons action begins at 9.30am with Energy and Climate Change questions, followed by the weekly Business Statement, announcing forthcoming Commons debates, from the Leader of the House. Will he announce a vote on Trident renewal?

Then MPs turn to two debates on subjects chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. The first is on the effect of the equalisation of the state pension age on women - raising concerns that the acceleration of equalisation directly discriminates against women born on or after 6 April 1951 and gives them only a few years to make alternative arrangements. The motion calls for the government to bring in transitional arrangements. The SNP's Mhairi Black leads the debate.

The second debate is on children in care - calling for the government to take steps to help reduce the number of children entering the care system by bringing forward measures to support more children to remain safely at home with their family or extended family. Lucy Allan and Alan Johnson lead.

In Westminster Hall (1.30pm) the subject for debate is the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2015 - which details the government's efforts to deliver a better deal for service personnel on issues like health education and getting on the property ladder. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer lead the debate.

The Commons will not be sitting on Friday.