Week ahead

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley will be in the spotlight

Parliament returns for a brief interlude before the EU Referendum campaign becomes all-consuming, and MPs and peers break again for a special Referendum recess. The really heavy-duty legislating will be on the Investigatory Powers Bill (the Snoopers Charter to its opponents) where two days have been set aside for detailed debate, and major amendments are being pressed from all sides. I have written a separate blog post on this.

The week's other new legislation, on buses and protecting cultural property in conflict zones, is fairly uncontroversial - and the main spice will doubtless be provided when the Referendum debate percolates in, perhaps via ministerial statements or urgent questions. One issue to watch is whether Conservative Brexiteers attempt a bit of lesse majeste at PMQs. Tory temperatures are clearly rising, might one of their number take a pop at their leader?

With the news that Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has written to the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, refusing their summons to appear and give evidence in their inquiry into workplace practices, the Committee will meet in private session on Tuesday, to consider their next move.

Mr Ashley has told the Committee his lawyer will not be available - but committee sources believe he has had plenty of notice. Their next step could be to bring the issue to the floor of the Commons and put down a motion referring Mr Ashley to the Privileges Committee, the guardian of the rights of the House; they would then have to decide if his refusal amounted to a breach of privilege. The ante has been upped.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Commons meets at 2.30 pm for Communities and Local Government Questions, after which it's a fair bet that there will be a couple of ministerial statements or urgent questions on issues which have come up during the Whitsun recess. This should not affect the time available for the next big event, the Report Stage consideration of the Investigatory Powers Bill, because the programme motion allows MPs to sit as long as it takes, but it may mean a very late night. As for the substance of the Bill, see my blog on this.

Select Committee to watch: International Development (2.45pm) on DFID's allocation of resources - with Mail on Sunday contributing editor (and aid spending critic), Ian Birrell, and others.

In Westminster Hall (4.30-7.30pm) there will be a debate on e-petition 109702 calling for restrictions on the use of fireworks so that their use by members of the public is only permitted on traditional celebration dates. The argument is that pet and animal owners struggle to keep their companion animals safe during this extended period. The Government has responded to the petition by saying that restrictions on the general public's use of fireworks, and permitted noise levels, already exist and ministers have no plans to extend them.

In the Lords (2.30pm) questions to ministers cover reducing net migration to the UK (from Migration Watch's Lord Green of Deddington); amending the Personal Independence Payment mobility criteria, from Labour's Lord McKenzie of Luton, Shadow Spokesman on Work and Pensions (peers recently voted to call on the government to hold talks with disability charities about the way the new PIP treated people with mobility problems). There's also a question from the Crossbencher Baroness Deech on guaranteeing the continued independence of the BBC.

Then peers turn to the Second Reading of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill, which signs the United Kingdom up to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The effect of the Bill is to incorporate criminal offences under the Convention into UK law and it extends criminal liability to commanders and superiors who fail to prevent offences in certain circumstances. It also defines the sanctions due in the event that serious violations are committed against cultural property, and the conditions under which individual criminal responsibility applies.

Next up is a motion to approve the West Midlands Combined Authority Order 2016 -this sets up one of the new strategic super-councils being negotiated at local level, as part of the Government's City devolution agenda. The West Midlands Combined Authority will cover the existing Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton council areas and will have powers over economic development, regeneration and transport in the West Midlands. The creation of these new authorities is a massive revolution in the way England is governed, but perhaps because it's happening piecemeal, area by area, and the action is taking place beyond the M25, the process seldom seems to create many ripples in Westminster. That may not last much longer. MPs are becoming increasingly alert to the implications, which is why a number are now bidding to become the mayors of the new super-councils.


The Commons meets at 11.30am, for Treasury Questions - watch out for the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, who has been pressing the Chancellor to release more information and analysis on the economic case for the Airport Commission's final verdict on where new runways might be built in South-East England - in other words he's probing the reasoning behind the super-sensitive decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick.

Then, assuming no statements or urgent questions, it's Day Two of the Investigatory Powers Bill Report stage, which will be followed by the Third Reading debate... the latter is an increasingly ritualistic occasion, normally, but with some formidable backbench guerrillas lined up against this Bill, some kind of last minute ambush can't be ruled out.

And the day ends with an adjournment debate on comparative healthcare economics and future funding of the NHS, led by Conservative former minister Dr Andrew Murrison.

Select Committees to watch: Home Affairs (2.15pm) on Asylum accommodation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, and Culture, Media and Sport (2.15pm) with the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, on the White Paper on the BBC and other issues.

In Westminster Hall (9.30-11am) Conservative MP Stuart Andrew leads a debate on the support for children and young people with life-shortening conditions. The aim is to raise awareness on a number of issues - some local authorities and NHS not following through on government guidelines on providing respite breaks for carers; Disability Living Allowance is not paid for children under three - but many may need help with mobility or may have to take life support equipment with them. And he also wants better data collection to help improve services.

Other subjects to be debated include the Conveyancing process (11- 11.30am); Diabetes-related complications (2.30-4pm); UN Peacekeeping Week 2016 (4-4.30pm) and HPV vaccinations for men who have sex with men (4.30-5.30pm)

In the Lords (2.30pm) the questions to ministers cover the completion rate of apprenticeships and closing down puppy farms that breach animal welfare standards. Then, Peers debate two select committee reports. First is the Science and Technology Committee report on genetically modified insects which highlighted their potential to tackle infectious disease and agricultural pests, and urged more research.

Then, there's a European Union Committee report - Europe in the world: Towards a more effective EU foreign and security policy which called for an overarching framework to allow Member States to tackle the refugee and migration crisis, and global issues like climate change, and a policy focus on Europe's immediate neighbourhood.


The commons meets at 11.30am for Northern Ireland questions, followed, at Noon, Prime Minister's Question Time.

The main debate will be on a Labour motion on subject to be announced - they'll decide on Monday.

The adjournment debate is on Women and the Vote - Labour's Alison McGovern marks the centenary of women gaining the vote with a look at what the suffragettes of the last century would be campaigning for, now.

Select Committees to watch: A joint session of Work and Pensions and BIS (9.30am) on BHS with Chief Executive Darren Topp, and other BHS folk, followed by Dominic Chappell of the current owners, Retail Acquisitions Ltd (at 11.00am).

In Westminster Hall (9.30-11am) the SNP's Margaret Ferrier leads a debate on human rights and the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia - an issue on which her party has been extremely active. She has emerged as a regular Commons critic of the human rights record of Saudi Arabia.

The other subjects coming up in Westminster Hall are flooding and statutory duties of the fire service (11-11.30am); Governance of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (2.30- 4pm); Visas for visitors from sub- Saharan Africa (4-4.30pm) and age discrimination and the national living wage (4.30-5.30pm).

In the Lords (3pm) the usual half-hour of questions to ministers will be followed by the Second Reading of the Bus Services Bill, which provides Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) with new tools to use to address inefficiencies in their local bus markets and to work with commercial bus operators to provide better local bus services for passengers.


The Commons meets (9.30 am) for Culture, Media and Sport Questions, House of Commons Commission Questions, and questions to the Leader of the House, including Topical Questions. And after that, Chris Grayling remains at the Dispatch Box to deliver his weekly Business Statement.

The day's main event is a Backbench Business Committee debate on Carers Week, led by the Conservative Mims Davies. She wants to highlight the work of "silent carers army" of 6.5 million people in the UK who care for ill, older or disabled people. One issue likely to be highlighted is carers keeping in employment.

In the Lords (11am) there are a series of debates on issues raised by individual peers: Labour's Lord Haskel, on the UK's economic and financial prospects and the Conservative Baroness Jenkin on the new dietary advice which contradicts recommendations to eat a low-fat diet to tackle obesity.

The third debate can hardly be called a backbencher's choice, because it is led by the Labour leader in the Lord, Baroness Smith of Basildon. She wants to talk about the balance of power between the government and Parliament and the scrutiny of legislation - which is code for the regular spats between the government and the Upper House, when peers amend government bills, as they did 60 times in the 2015-16 parliamentary year.

Ever since the biggest of those defeats, on tax credits, Baroness Smith has complaining about the increased use of secondary legislation, hand in hand with loosely drafted bills, where, she says, significant detail and information is lacking, only to be promised later... in secondary legislation.

She believes the proposals to limit peers' ability to reject secondary legislation, in Lord Strathclyde's review should not be presented as an issue about the primacy of the Commons but a battle between the Executive and Parliament.

The day's final debate is about the lack of successful prosecutions for female genital mutilation - led by the Crossbencher Lord Berkeley of Knighton.


The Commons will not be sitting, but the Lords meets at 10am to debate the first of the new session's crop of private members bills

First is the Second Reading of the Unionist peer Lord Empey's Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill. This would allow the government to impose restrictions on assets owned by persons involved in supplying terrorist organisations in the United Kingdom with arms, to secure compensation for citizens of the UK affected by the supply of those arms.

Then comes the Register of Arms Brokers Bill , from the Liberal Democrat Baroness Jolly, who wants a registration required every three years; and for factors like criminal history, and tax status to figure in any decision to allow people to register.

Finally, there's the Renters' Rights Bill from the Liberal Democrat Baroness Grender, who wants to tackle what she regards as abuses by letting agents - like the "double dip" where they charge both landlords and tenants to set up an new tenancy agreement.