Week ahead

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It's probably a bit early to be talking about a zombie Parliament, but the coming Westminster week, with a surfeit of uncontroversial legislation, Opposition Days and Backbench debates, does recall the dog days of the last Parliament.

Of course the agenda can be livened-up, at short notice, by ministerial statements or urgent questions, and there are a number of very big issues coming down the track (the date of the EU referendum, the mammoth Investigatory Powers Bill, the Trident vote) but the current quiet in Westminster leaves plenty of time for leadership speculation and euro-plotting.

Here's my rundown of the week's events:


The Commons opens at 2.30pm, with Work and Pensions questions, after which any post-weekend ministerial statements or urgent questions will be taken.

The day's main legislating is the second reading of the Bank of England and Financial Services Bill - this deals with the governance, transparency and accountability of the Bank of England, as well as updating resolution planning and crisis management arrangements between the Bank and the Treasury.

It extends the senior managers and certification regime across the whole financial services industry and it extends the scope of the Pension Wise guidance service.

Of all the scheduled events this week (there's no accounting for urgent questions or statements) the backbench debate on the future of the Financial Conduct Authority looks the most interesting; a cross party team of Guto Bebb (Conservative), John Mann (Labour) and Kirsten Oswald (SNP) has put down a motion of no confidence in the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, saying it is not fit for purpose.

This is a pretty unprecedented move - I'm told the Commons clerks have been searching for a precedent without reward - I wonder if they've got back to the Honourable East India Company yet. It was sparked by the FCA's handling of a number of controversies, over interest rate swaps, and the management of the Connaught Income Fund (nearly 50 MPs - an impressive number - attended a recent adjournment debate on that issue) but most of all because the FCA has dropped plans for an inquiry into the culture of the financial services industry, a decision which has alarmed a number of MPs.

In Westminster Hall (from 4.30pm) MPs debate e-petition 110776 on transitional state pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s: "The government must make fair transitional arrangements for all women born on or after 6th April 1951 who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age (SPA). Hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed on them with a lack of appropriate notification." Helen Jones, the chair of the Petitions Committee, will lead the debate.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) there's more committee stage debate on the Immigration Bill, where the key issues include immigration detention, "deport first appeal later", migrant support, and family reunion. The dinner break business is a short debate on the effects of neglected tropical diseases in impairing social and economic development in developing countries.


The Commons meets at 11.30am for Business, Innovation and Skills questions - and that's followed by a Ten Minute Rule Bill from the Lib Dem former Scottish secretary, Alistair Carmichael. His Mobile Telecommunications Network Coverage (Contractual Obligations) Bill aims to strengthen the rights of consumers who purchase mobile phone contracts which do not provide the advertised service; they're promised four bars of signal in his Orkney and Shetland constituency and get none.

After that, MPs have their first debate on the Enterprise Bill - which creates a Small Business Commissioner, to deal with late payment of bills. An estimated £27bn is owed to small and medium-sized businesses. The bill also has measures dealing with deregulation and apprenticeships.

In Westminster Hall the day's debates include regional airports and UK airports capacity (9.30am-11am) and gender pricing (4.30-5.30pm).

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) there will be ping-pong on two bills from the Commons: the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill - where no vote is expected, but key issues are housing and the Charity Commission. Then peers turn to ping-pong on the Childcare Bill - Labour is working on getting into scope a report on the effectiveness of the government's childcare proposals - and they may force that issue to a vote.

Then peers turn to an important statutory instrument: the Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) Order, a measure which effectively cuts the subsidies to various forms of green energy; there's a Labour regret motion and a Lib Dem fatal motion, which Labour will abstain on.


The Commons opens at 11.30am, with International Development questions, followed, at noon by Prime Minister's Question Time - first in the batting order is Labour awkward squaddie John Mann, one of those behind Monday's debate on the FCA; anyone care to bet against him raising the issue with the PM?

PMQs is followed by a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Automatic Electoral Registration, from the Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, to ensure the accuracy of electoral registers. The bill proposes to automatically register everyone accessing a public service (that is everyone who applies for a driving license, everyone who has a National Insurance number, or receives a benefit), thereby making it much easier to keep an accurate and complete register.

She quotes estimates that the government's new system of Individual Voter Registration will lead to one million voters falling off the electoral register: the bill proposes to reverse this trend.

The day's main debates are on Labour motions on tax avoidance and multinational companies - and then on public finances in Scotland. And that's followed by an adjournment debate on child dental health, led by the Conservative, Sir Paul Beresford. Tooth decay is one of the main reasons young children arrive at A&E, and the House's resident dentist will explore the issue.

In Westminster Hall, the day's debates include: fuel poverty (9.30am- 11am); Bryan Evans and the Serious Fraud Office (11am- 11.30am); and government investment in cycling (4.30 -5.30pm).

My eye was caught by the debate on changes to the level of local government funding (2.30pm - 4pm). Former Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall will open a general debate, designed to encourage as many MPs as possible to raise their particular concerns about the future of local government in an era of austerity.

In the Lords, the main business is the continuation of detailed committee stage consideration of the Immigration Bill, where peers will be looking at the issues of unaccompanied refugee children, border security and language requirements for public sector workers. During the dinner break, the House will consider a Lib Dem regret motion on the Housing benefit, abolition of the Family Premium and Date of Claim Regulations. It's not expected to be pushed to a vote.


The Commons meets at 9.30am for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions; then mini-question times for the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission. After the weekly Commons Business statement from the Leader of the House, the rest of the day is devoted to debates chosen by the Backbench Business Committee.

First is a select committee statement from Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, on the committee's report The collapse of Kids Company: lessons for charity trustees, professional firms, the Charity Commission, and Whitehall.

Then comes debates on Parliamentary sovereignty and EU renegotiations and conflict in Yemen. On the first of those, the debate was applied for by the Conservative John Baron who believes the prime minister has not made a restoration of UK Parliamentary sovereignty a priority in his EU renegotiation.

"Without the restoration of sovereignty, everything else is peripheral," Mr Baron said. "We should by ourselves be able to stop unwanted directives, taxes and regulation. I look forward to the Government's response in the debate, given many of us have been unsuccessful in engaging with the Prime Minister."

The adjournment debate is on the Delay Repay scheme for rail commuters - led by the Lib Dem, Tom Brake.

The Westminster Hall debate (1.30pm) is on the role of men in preventing violence against women.

In the Lords, business in the Chamber begins at 11am - and the main event is the third reading of the Education and Adoption Bill - the key issue outstanding is the new regional schools commissioners created under the Bill.

Labour peer and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy then leads debates on both the EU Committee's report Subsidiarity Assessment: Reform of the electoral law of the EU and on a reasoned opinion on the European Parliament's proposed decision on the election of MEPs. The final business in the Chamber is a debate on the EU Committee's report on Capital Markets Union: a welcome start.


It's another private members' bill day in the Commons (from 9.30am) opening with detailed consideration of the Conservative Mike Wood's Riot Compensation Bill, and then William Wragg's Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Bill.

If those are completed (and there seems to be a consistent pattern of padding out these report stage debates) there might be a little time left to allow a mini-second reading debate on Peter Bone's Ovarian Cancer (Information) Bill, but I doubt Christopher Chope's Bat Habitats Regulation Bill will be reached.

One other Friday trend to watch out for is for the granting of urgent questions, which used to be quite a rarity on Fridays, when the Commons tends to be thinly-attended.

The Speaker's Office always insists that these are decided on merit, but I can't help wondering if some kind of message is being sent, about the increasing tendency to slip policy announcements out on a Thursday, when they might not be noticed by departing MPs.