Week ahead

Image caption The prime minister will be appearing before the Liaison Committee on Tuesday, before the Commons rises for the Christmas recess.

Three Parliamentary days remain in 2016 - but there will be some important moments before honourable members and noble lords begin their Christmas break - notably Theresa May's debut before the Commons Liaison Committee. And there's also a farewell to a long-serving minister in the Lords.


In the Commons (2.30pm) it's Education questions, and as usual any post weekend urgent questions or ministerial statements will be dealt with at 3.30pm, including Theresa May's reporting back from the European Council summit in Brussels.

One statement that is expected is from the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, on a new fiscal framework for Wales - from 2018 tax revenues from the new devolved taxes will directly fund public services in Wales, managed via this framework. So this is a very big deal in setting the parameters of the new devolution setup in Wales.

That will be followed by a general debate on exiting the EU and science and research - look out for the maiden speech from the Lib Dem victor in the Richmond by-election, Sarah Olney.

In the adjournment debate, Judith Cummins raise the future of her local Rugby League club, Bradford Bulls, which is in administration.

In the Lords, peers will rattle through the third reading of the much amended Policing and Crime Bill - there will be some last minute amendments to ensure that the measures to expunge convictions from homosexual conduct that is no longer a crime are extended to convictions against military personnel.

They then turn to report stage consideration of the Pension Schemes Bill - there might be some resistance to a government amendment which allows changes to existing pension laws to be made by order, to bring them into line with the provisions of this bill. Peers are increasingly wary of so-called Henry VIII powers.


The Commons opens (11.30am) with Health questions. Then, the Conservative Tim Loughton, whose passengers in his constituency have been heavily affected by Southern Trains, has a Ten Minute Rule Bill to change the compensation rules for passengers who have suffered delays.

He wants the penalties for late running and cancellations to be paid automatically into a central pot, so that passengers don't have to go through a "very bureaucratic" process to claim money - those who claim will get their cash and anything left over will go to offset fair rises and to pay for a more powerful ombudsman system to take up their complaints.

The main debates are on issues selected by the Backbench Business Committee: first on leasehold and commonhold reform - where an all-party group wants to raise a series of issues about this form of property ownership. They want to alleviate the distress and hardship of leaseholders, particularly the elderly; do away with the high costs and legal gamesmanship that have distorted the original intention of the property tribunal as a low cost forum for redress, and publicise what they believe is the scandalous behaviour of professions involved in the leasehold sector. MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Sir Peter Bottomley lead proceedings.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour MP Dan Jarvis is making child poverty one of his campaigning priorities.

Then comes the traditional pre-recess adjournment, in which any MP can speak on any issue they care to raise.

In Westminster Hall, my eye was caught by the debate led by Dan Jarvis (2.30pm-4pm) on child poverty - he will be introducing a private member's bill on 3 February, to establish a target for the reduction of child poverty, after it was scrapped by the Coalition.

It would also put a duty on local councils to assess the needs of children living in poverty in their area and to produce a child poverty strategy. Mr Jarvis, seen as a future contender for the Labour leadership, has made this issue one of his campaigning priorities - and having a debate on this issues raised by his bill in advance of that, may help him to argue that it deserves a second reading, even if it only gets a brief debate on the floor of the Commons.

Meanwhile, the Liaison Committee - the super-committee of all the select committee chairs - will question the prime minister (2pm). The session will focus first on Brexit, and then on adult Social Care, and I'm told there has been much jockeying for position as the various chairs vie for the right to interrogate Theresa May on her debut before them.

In the Lords (2.30pm), peers will be invited to approve statutory instruments on consumer rights; on the Road Traffic Offenders Act, 1988; and on the Legal Services Act 2007. Then comes a debate from the Lords ad-hoc Committee on Social Mobility on their report Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people.

After that peers turn to the report from the Communications Committee: Press Regulation: where are we now?


MPs will have departed, but their lordships linger for another day - their debates include the second reading of the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill.

This is followed by two SI approval motions, first on non-domestic rating; and second, on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Final business of the day is a 90 minute mini-debate on the progress made in rolling out Universal Credit and its impact - this is also a final debate in another sense; it is the final ministerial outing for Lord Freud, who, after six and a half years as an unpaid work and pensions minister, is stepping down from the government.

He is the only minister appointed by David Cameron in 2010 to occupy the same post today, and he has been the government's point person on its Universal Credit programme throughout. "He should be regarded as a hero of public service," a senior peer (not of his party) told me, and a number of tributes are likely during the debate. As he and his colleague Lady Chisholm of Owlpen - who speaks on Cabinet Office issues - depart the government, Theresa May has a couple of vacancies to fill in her team on the red benches.

After that all should be quiet in Westminster until MPs return on 9 January (peers are back on the 10th); I will blog on the agenda awaiting them in January.

Merry Christmas.

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