Week ahead

David Cameron at PMQs Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron's statement on tax will dominate the headlines as MPs return to Westminster

Plenty can happen during even a relatively short Parliamentary break, so the main headlines to emerge from Westminster, as MPs and peers return to work, will be generated by ministerial statements and urgent questions, rather than by the business listed on the agenda.

David Cameron will use a statement on Monday to tell the Commons the government is bringing forward plans for criminal penalties on companies whose employees encourage or enable tax evasion.

But there is plenty in the week's agenda to interest particular groups.

The Commons will debate, among other things, contaminated blood, pub companies, mental health and the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War; all subjects which have generated fireworks in the past.

But the government's biggest Commons problems may come when - and the debate is not scheduled yet, but could pop up somewhere in this week's agenda - MPs debate Lords amendments to the Immigration Bill.

There are a number of Tory MPs willing to support the changes made by peers, in the teeth of government resistance. At issue is the "Dubs amendment" from the Labour peer Alf Dubs, requiring that: "the Secretary of State must, as soon as possible, make arrangements to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children who are in European countries to the United Kingdom."

It was won by 102 votes in the Lords, so peers may be reluctant to back down. The government was also defeated on an amendment to cap the period people can spend in immigration detention, without judicial oversight at 28 days - following the recommendation of an investigation by an All Party Parliamentary Group. The MP to watch on this is the Conservative David Burrowes - a member of the All Party Group's inquiry, and, ominously, the key organiser in the Sunday Trading defeat.

Here's my rundown of the week after the Easter recess (with the caveat that it could all change if there's some pressing need...)


In the Commons (2.30pm) MPs begin with Home Office questions - probably followed by the usual slew of post-recess ministerial statements and urgent questions. Then they turn to the second reading of the Finance Bill - the measure that gives effect to the Budget. And while there may be more attempts to unpick it, they are most likely to come at a later stage of consideration.

In Westminster Hall (time tbc), there's a debate on the Petitions Committee report into the issues raised by e-petition 105560 on funding for research into brain tumours, led by Helen Jones. The report found that brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and people under 40, but that research into them has been underfunded for decades. As a result, the committee concludes, survival rates for brain tumours - unlike those for many other cancers - have improved very little in the last 30 years.

It adds that brain tumour patients have been let down by a lack of leadership from successive governments, and says that the government's response to the petition: "gave us little reason to believe that the Department for Health had grasped the seriousness of this issue. The Government's position seems to be that it has no role to play in identifying gaps in research funding for specific cancers and taking decisive action to provide funding where it is needed."

In the Lords (2.30pm) the usual opening half hour of questions to ministers is followed (drumroll) by the first day of the crucial report stage consideration of the Housing and Planning Bill.

Whether the government gets the duffing-up Labour have promised rather depends on whether they and the Lib Dems can overcome their rather tetchy relationship and gang up on the government. The subjects to be covered include: starter homes, self-build and custom housebuilding; rogue landlords and property agents in England; banning orders; database of rogue landlords and property agents; and rent payment orders.


The Commons opens (11.30am) with Foreign Office questions, which will be followed by a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Events and Festivals (Control of Flares, Fireworks and Smoke Bombs Etc) from the Conservative Nigel Adams. He wants to extend the ban on people using fireworks in the audience, which already exists at sporting events, to cover concerts, festivals and other musical events; he says several hundred people a year are injured by incidents involving fireworks at festivals etc - the ban would not cover the use of pyrotechnics by the artists.

The day's main debate, chosen by the Backbench Business Committee, is on the reform of support arrangements for people infected with contaminated blood, led by the SDLP's Margaret Richie, the Conservative Chloe Smith and Labour's Diana Johnson - who chairs the all party group on Haemophilia & Contaminated Blood, which recently published a report into the current support for individuals affected by the contaminated blood scandal noting the complexity and inadequacy of the support for sufferers and their families.

Then there's a debate on opposed private business, the Transport for London Bill. (It's worth noting that private bills are not the same as private members' bills, they're bills relating to the private interests of an individual or company). Finally this measure, which has been popping up on the Order Paper for months, in the hope of getting formal approval, will be the subject of a three hour debate covering report and third reading. The bill would give TfL - London's Transport quango - extra powers to manage its property portfolio, allowing them to raise more money which can then be channelled into improvements in the transport network.

The eagle-eyed band of opponents who have pledged to "object" the bill on every occasion were particularly concerned about a clause that would have allowed TfL to form "limited partnerships" - which they feared could have led to land being developed in ways unacceptable to local communities. That clause has now been pulled, and although the objectors have some further amendments to debate, they think have won 95% of what they wanted, so the bill will probably go through.

The day's Westminster Hall debates are on dementia and Alzheimer's disease (9.30-11am); National Defence Medal (11- 11.30am); tackling HIV in women and girls (2.30- 4pm); and the future funding of supported housing (4.30- 5.30pm).

In the Lords (2.30pm), it's the second reading Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill.


In the Commons (11.30am) there's the Dispatch Box debut for Alun Cairns as the new Welsh Secretary at Welsh Office questions, where he has taken over after Stephen Crabb, who in turn has replaced IDS at Work and Pensions.

That is followed, at noon, by Prime Minister's question time. Then the Labour MP Joan Ryan presents a Ten Minute Rule Bill requiring the "fines" paid by train companies - Disruption Payments - to be spent on improvement projects to improve railway trouble. Since her return to the Commons (she lost her seat in 2010) she has raised the state of rail services in her constituency on several occasions.

The day's main debate will be on a subject to be chosen by the Opposition.

In Westminster Hall, the subjects for debate include the procedure for debating and voting on private members' bills (9.30am-11am). This has become the totemic issue for Commons modernisers, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as an arcane system dominated by procedural trickery and manoeuvre. Then there's a debate on the future of gliding and the Air Cadet Organisation (11am-11.30am).

In the afternoon, the subjects are the report from the independent mental health taskforce to the NHS in England (2.30pm-4pm). James Morris, the Conservative MP who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, wants to keep up the pressure to implement the recommendations of the task force led by by Paul Farmer, the former chief executive of the mental health charity MIND, to move to parity of esteem for mental health and physical health within the NHS.

And later there's a debate on the implementation of sustainable development goals (4.30pm-5.30pm). The Conservative Ben Howlett will be pressing for the UK to include the recommendations of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in its implementation strategy for the sustainable development goals.

In the Lords (3pm) Housing and Planning Bill - report stage continues into day two, covering the clauses on recovering abandoned premises in England; social housing: implementing the right to buy on a voluntary basis; and vacant high value local authority housing.


The Commons opens (9.30am) with questions to the Attorney General; and to Nicky Morgan, in her role as minister for Women and Equalities. Next comes the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling.

Then there are two Backbench Business Committee debates - the first is on the National Security checking of the Iraq inquiry report. The final version of Sir John Chilcot's long-awaited report may arrive in Downing Street this week, but it's now not going to be published till after the EU referendum, despite the prime minister originally saying he would clear the report for publication within two weeks. Backbench campaigner David Davis, supported by the SNP's Angus Brendan MacNeil and Labour's Paul Flynn, want to use the debate to put pressure on the government to stick to the original timetable - he argues that the families of service personnel killed in Iraq have waited long enough.

The next subject is Diversity in the BBC, led by Labour's David Lammy, the Conservative, Helen Grant, and the SNP's Kirsten Oswald. As the BBC approaches the renewal of its Charter, the debate will focus on the BBC's approach to diversity in both its own staffing and in programming.

In Westminster Hall there is another backbench debate - a general debate on the Pubs Code and the Adjudicator, led by the Lib Dem Greg Mulholland, who led a long campaign to tackle what he says is unfair treatment of pub licensees by the big pub chains.

He says the government has not lived up to promises it made about the draft code of conduct, and he's also concerned about the appointment of Paul Newby as the Pub Code Adjudicator - complaining he has worked for the pub companies and would have a conflict of interest. When he raised the issue in the Commons that complaint was rejected by the Business Minister Anna Soubry in robust terms.

In the Lords (11am) it's peers' turn to sink their teeth into the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill. The second reading debate will be followed by an exhaustive committee stage - although probably not quite as lengthy as the one that has just ended in the Commons.