What's on in Parliament next week?

There's more Brexit action in the Lords, with peers poised to inflict more defeats on the government in the final day of Report Stage debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill - and that may not be the end.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There could be more defeats in the Lords for the government to add to the 10 losses it has already suffered on the EU Withdrawal Bill

The Third Reading debate is scheduled for Wednesday 16 May, and Labour are already talking up a possible move on environmental protections post-Brexit.

Elsewhere it's more low-key legislating, and perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for across the question times, Westminster Hall and the Committee Corridor will be titans of the select committees pushing their policy goals.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and with ministers preoccupied by Brexit, figures like Sarah Wollaston of the Health Committee and Robert Halfon on the Education Committee are clearly mustering support for initiatives of their own.

It is another underlining of the way governments in a hung parliament can be prodded along by cross-party alliances of backbenchers.

Other themes for the eagle eyed will be the mood of the parties after this week's local elections, and the crisis around Mr Speaker.

Beset by claims of bullying staff, John Bercow is not budging. So will there be further attempts to pressure him? And will would-be successors break cover? Watch this space.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:

Tuesday 8 May

The Commons reconvenes after the long weekend (14:30 BST) for Health and Social Care Questions.

Look out for MPs, particularly from the Health Committee, pressing for action on child obesity, including an extension on the sugary drink tax to more sugar-heavy products.

And from 15:30 expect the usual post-weekend crop of ministerial statements and urgent questions.

The day's Ten Minute Rule Bill, from the Conservative Ben Bradley, is on the protection of pollinating insects - bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

He says there has been a sharp decline in pollinator habitats and he wants new planning rules which will create a series of "insect pathways" running through our countryside and towns, dotted with wildflowers - to provide new habitats for bees and butterflies, and to ensure that when land is built on there is somewhere for pollinators to migrate to, so that they don't die off.

The day's legislating is on the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill - a short measure to protect the tenancy rights of people who have to move to avoid an abusive partner.

Then MPs decide whether to accept Lords amendments to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and vote on a statutory Instrument on Criminal Legal Aid... it is a rather thin-looking menu, so it would certainly be possible for the House to deal with several statements or urgent questions, or have an urgent debate of some kind.

In Westminster Hall, debates include one on concessionary bus passes (09:30) led by Labour shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner.

He will make the case for retaining National Concessionary Travel Scheme Bus Pass for pensioners, and for Labour's new policy to extend it to younger people too.

And keep an eye on the next debate (11:00) on children missing from care homes - this will be led by Ann Coffey, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, who wants to highlight the number of very vulnerable children being sent to live in children's homes many miles away from their home town and the high numbers who then go missing.

She is concerned that this is an increasing problem amid fears that these children are being targeted and groomed by paedophiles and drugs gangs operating "county lines". She will say this demonstrates a "catastrophic failure of the care market".

Another debate to watch is the Education Committee chair and former skills minister Robert Halfon's (13:00) on progress on the government's skills strategy - this will probably not be the usual sedate Westminster Hall stroll around a policy area.

During his brief tenure as skills minister, Mr Halfon suggested that skills were a key to social justice, as well as to the Conservatives' ability to win working class votes, and he has continued to press that view from his new perch on the Committee Corridor.

So expect some very radical views on how the government should deal with a widening skills gap, in a fast-changing labour market.

That is followed (13:30) by a debate on the effect of the monsoon season on the Rohingya refugees, led by Labour MP Jo Stevens.

My committee pick is the Home Affairs session on immigration detention (14:30), with the immigration minister, Caroline Nokes.

This picks up an issue energetically pursued by an All-Party Group in previous parliaments, about the quality of decision making over who should be detained, and for how long, as well as the conditions of immigration detention centres such as Brook House, Yarl's Wood and Morton Hall. Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, will also be giving evidence.

But keep an eye on the next exciting episode (16:30) of the Health Committee's Childhood Obesity inquiry.

After hearing from campaigners like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, it is the turn of the Advertising Standards Agency, the Advertising Association, Living Loud, the Obesity and Health Alliance, the British Retail Consortium, Cancer Research UK, the UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research, the Local Government Association, Shift Design and the British Takeaway Campaign.

In the Lords (14:30) the regular half hour of questions to ministers will be followed by the final day of Report Stage debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - and there could be defeats for the government to add to the 10 losses it suffered over the previous five days of detailed consideration.

The key amendments look to be:

Amendment 93: On facilitating future UK co-operation in EU agencies/adoption of EU laws - this aims to make clear that nothing in the Withdrawal Bill prevents the replication of future EU law in domestic law or the continued participation of the UK in EU agencies. The idea is to allow British associate membership of a variety of EU agencies post-Brexit; bodies dealing with chemicals, aerospace and medicines, for example. The tell-tale sign here is that this amendment is proposed by a cross-party alliance including the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines; Labour's Lord Goldsmith; the Conservative, Lady McIntosh of Pickering; and the Lib Dem Lord Teverson.

Next comes Amendment 95, removing the government's fixed exit day. Again check out the names - the amendment is proposed by the Duke of Wellington (insert jokes about Theresa May facing her Waterloo here), the crossbencher and ex-diplomat Lord Hannay of Chiswick, Labour front-bencher Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, and the Lib Dem Leader Lord Newby. The Withdrawal Bill currently defines "exit day" as "11pm on 29 March 2019". The argument is that this undermines a transitional period, making it illegal for the UK to extend the Article 50 negotiations - even if the EU27 unanimously agreed to do so; and so denying UK Ministers flexibility in the negotiations. This amendment seeks to reinstate the provisions that were in the original version of the Bill; and to make it clear that regulations appointing exit day require the formal approval of both Houses of Parliament.

One for the connoisseurs, a little further down the batting order, is amendment 70, proposed by the former Clerk of the Commons, Lord Lisvane; Labour Leader Baroness Smith; Tory constitutionalist Lord Norton of Louth; and the Lib Dem Lord Sharkey. This proposes a highly significant change to the procedures of the Lords in dealing with secondary legislation or "SIs" - orders and regulations which receive a one-off vote, and which are almost never rejected by peers. The idea is to give them the power to refer SIs back to the Commons, perhaps with a suggested change. This would be an important new power, because at the moment peers can pass "regret" motions on them, but these have no real effect. This amendment is due for debate later in the evening, and its backers may not be able to muster a majority - but if passed it would surely not be long before it was applied to all secondary legislation, not just SIs made under the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Wednesday 9 May

MPs begin their day (11:30) with Northern Ireland questions, followed at noon by Prime Minister's Question Time.

The day's Ten Minute Rule Bill is the European Union Withdrawal Agreement (Public Vote) Bill - Labour's Gareth Thomas will propose that any withdrawal agreement with the EU shall not take effect without a vote by the electorate of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to that effect - a second referendum. Expect a speech against and a vote on this one.

Then MPs deal with the remaining stages of the Data Protection Bill - which will include a number of government amendments beefing up the powers of the Information Commissioner, the steps that people can take when they believe a media organisation is failing to comply with the data protection legislation, setting up a review of processing of personal data for journalistic purposes, and requiring a data protection code for journalism to be drawn up.

Next there is a motion to approve a Statutory Instrument on Education (Student Support) which introduces loans for living costs for students undertaking designated part-time courses in higher education after 1 August 2018.

In Westminster Hall, the debates include the Economies of the UK islands (09:30); the role of the new Office of Product Safety and Standards (14:30) and Electric vehicle and bicycle take-up (16:30).

My Committee Corridor picks are the joint Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Welsh Affairs Committees hearing (10:00) on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon - investigating delays in giving the much-touted project the go-ahead. In the afternoon, watch out for the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing (14:30) on support for UK football fans travelling to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, with evidence from Foreign Office minister, Harriet Baldwin MP - having heard from the police and football supporters' groups on Tuesday.

In the Lords (15:00) it looks like quite a light day - with committee consideration of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which creates a framework for this technology including an insurance framework for fully automated vehicles on the roads. It also provides for infrastructure that is easy to use for electric vehicle owners.

Labour's Lord Hunt of Kings Heath has another one of his trademark regret motions against a Statutory Instrument, in this case the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Consequential, Transitional, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Regulations 2018 - which allow the Office for Students (OfS) and UK Research and Innovation to take over the functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the Director of Fair Access to Higher Education.

Thursday 10 May

The Commons opens (09:30) with Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions, followed after 40 minutes by questions to the Attorney General, and then the weekly statement on forthcoming Commons business, from the Leader of the House.

Then the chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, makes a short statement on her committee's joint report with the Education Committee, ominously entitled "The government's Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation." It is due to be published on Wednesday 9 May.

The main debates are on two subjects chosen by the Backbench Business Committee - first the much-postponed debate on a motion calling for redress for victims of banking misconduct and the FCA - this will focus the treatment of small business by the Global Restructuring Group, a division of RBS. which dealt with small companies that were in financial difficulty. Many feel that they were mistreated or even driven out of business, and this debate will look at how they can seek redress.

Next, there is a motion on compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA Terrorism - this picks up a cause highlighted in a Private Members Bill in the Lords from the Unionist Peer, Lord Empey. The issue is that many victims feel the UK has failed to extract compensation from the government of Libya, when other countries, notably the US, have been successful - to the point when British citizens caught up in a particular attack have received less compensation than foreigners standing close by. There has been a well-coordinated parliamentary campaign on this issue.

In Westminster Hall (13:30), MPs debate the Transport Select Committee report on Community Transport and the Department for Transport's proposed consultation.

At 15:00 they turn to the Relocation of Channel 4 - with a debate led by the SNP's Stewart Malcolm McDonald, who argues that with several cities bidding to be the new home of Channel 4's HQ or the location for one of its proposed new creative hubs, MPs should have a chance to make a pitch for their home cities; he will be arguing for Glasgow.

In the Lords (11.00) there will be a brief rubber-stamping of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL] - which should be given its third reading without much dissent. This is a private members' bill from the Conservative Lord McColl, which sets out victims' entitlement to support while the authorities are deciding whether there is evidence that they have been a victim of modern slavery. It would also create a statutory duty to provide confirmed victims with support and leave to remain for 12 months.

Keep an eye on the detailed discussion in Committee of the Civil Liability Bill - this attempts to limit insurance payments for whiplash injuries, where there are complaints of over-claiming for spurious injuries. But there is some pushback from a group of peers who argue that it amounts to a huge transfer of liability away from drivers and insurance companies, and on to the injured. They also suggest that people who suffer whiplash at work will be entitled to more compensation than people who suffer identical injuries in a car.

Finally, there will be a short debate on the effectiveness of the Prompt Payment Code, led by the Lib Dem, Baroness Burt of Solihull.

Friday 11 May

It is private members' bill day in the Commons (from 09:30) - which should see MPs put the finishing touches to the Conservative Kevin Hollinrake's Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, before moving onto the Labour MP Peter Kyle's attempt to bring in votes at 16 in his Representation of the People (Young People's Enfranchisement) Bill. The government opposes this, so I expect the debate on Mr Hollinrake's bill to be padded out to use up time, thus preventing Mr Kyle from moving his Bill to a vote.

Then there are any number of bills proposed by the indefatigable Tory backbencher Sir Christopher Chope, ranging from the BBC Licence Fee (Civil Penalty) Bill to the Electronic Cigarettes (Regulation) Bill - not to mention quite a number of bills from other MPs. But most of these will be ritually pole-axed at 14:30. It is possible some may be allowed a formal second reading if no-one objects - but that is a rare event.

In the Lords (10:00), there are detailed debates on two private members' bills. First, the Big Issue founder, Lord Bird, has the committee stage of his Creditworthiness Assessment Bill, which aims to make rental payments a compulsory part of a credit score.

Second is the Lib Dem Baroness Hamwee's Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill which would allow for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to be granted to the family members of refugees and to refugees who are family members of British. It would also provide for legal aid for refugee family reunion cases. There is a parallel private members bill before the Commons, proposed by the SNP's Angus McNeil.

Next comes the Second Reading debate for the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill proposed by the crossbencher, Baroness Deech. This is another attempt to modernise the law on divorce. It would make pre- and post-nuptial agreements even more binding, rather than just persuasive; make the equal division of matrimonial assets acquired after marriage a starting point; exclude pre-marital assets from the financial separation, and tighten the court's powers on spousal maintenance by providing a list of criteria for when maintenance can be provided, and by placing a cap of five years for maintenance except for exceptional circumstances. If passed, the Bill will limit the judge's discretion, and will make the law more structured and hopefully easier to understand, particularly for people representing themselves.