Week ahead in Parliament

Mark D'Arcy
Parliamentary correspondent

image source, Paul Walmsley
image captionMen from 10th battalion West Yorkshire in training - they fought at the Battle of the Somme. Parliament will remember the sacrifices made in World War One in debates this week.

It's half-term week, so MPs and peers are sitting for just two days - and those are mostly filled with in-house business and solemn debates to mark the Armistice, the centenary of the end of the First World War.

No big votes are scheduled, but the build-up will begin to what promises to the arrival of the Finance Bill, which enacts the measures announced in the Budget.

Will there be a majority in the Chamber to back departed minister Tracey Crouch and hasten the promised ban on FOBTs - Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - in the teeth of government opposition?

And will the group of dissident Labour MPs, who defied their party whip to oppose the government's income tax cuts, seek to make their point again.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:

Monday 5 November

In the Commons (2.30 pm) the day opens with Housing, Communities and Local Government Questions. And then the weekend usually generates cause for a couple of urgent questions or ministerial statements.

Work and Pensions Committee Chair Frank Field (now an independent, rather than Labour MP) presents a bill to regulate the cost of school uniforms - an issue he has already raised in a Westminster Hall debate.

He argues that providing uniforms can impose a serious burden on people on low incomes - he wants the government to scrap VAT on school clothing, and for the schools minister to write to school heads and governors and ask them to review uniform pricing each year local stores and take steps to ensure they're not asking parents to buy expensive bespoke uniforms.

This is a bill presentation, so none of the above will be said, still less debated - but it's another step in another of Mr Field's many campaigns.

The main event is a "general debate" on Dame Laura Cox's report on the bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff.

This will be a "taking of the voices" exercise, and no decisions will emerge directly from it. But it will allow the House to ponder the various possible mechanisms for protecting staff and punishing bad conduct - including by MPs.

Watch out, too, for more swipes at the Speaker, John Bercow - himself the subject of (strongly denied) bullying allegations. This may also provide an opportunity for MPs considering running for Speaker when Mr Bercow steps down to display their wares.

That is followed by another general debate, on road safety.

The big committee set piece event is the appearance of the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, at the Treasury Committee (4.30pm), in the finale of their inquiry into the Budget.

But keep an eye on the launch of an inquiry which could touch millions of people in Britain, at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (4pm) where the issue they're investigating is leasehold for homes - covering issues like excessive charging and the legal problems leaseholders can encounter.

This inquiry has attracted written evidence from a startling 700 people and organisations. This opening session aims to give an overview of the key issues. Unusually, the witnesses include representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold Reform, National Leasehold Campaign and Federation of Private Residents' Associations.

According to the most recent figures, there are an estimated 4.2 million leasehold properties in the UK and leasehold properties account for 46% of new-build sales. Some leaseholders have argued that current legislation has failed to adequately protect them from a number of issues, including high and escalating ground rents, excessive costs in extending lease agreements or buying the freehold and forfeiting properties if terms are breached. There have also been claims of miss-selling, where onerous terms have not been fully apparent to leaseholders.

The session will examine the extent and prevalence of such issues in the UK, as well as existing mechanisms to support leaseholders. It will consider the adequacy of government proposals for reform, as well as ways to extend new protections to existing leaseholders.

In the Lords (2.30pm) the main event is a debate on the centenary of the Armistice of the First World War. But peers will also be conducting committee stage scrutiny of the Tenant Fees Bill across the corridor in the Moses Room, their equivalent of Westminster Hall. The key issues are security deposit levels, holding deposit levels, the statutory scheme for fees on default, and putting enforcement guidance into statute.

The Commons opens (11.30am) with Treasury questions, followed (assuming no more urgent questions or ministerial statements) by a Ten Minute Rule Bill from the SNP's Marion Fellows. This is on child maintenance - she has called for a radical overhaul of the system.

Then comes a general debate marking the centenary of the Armistice.

In Westminster Hall (9.30am) the Conservative, Ben Bradley, will lead a debate on the reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids - Mr Bradley has called for former legal high 'mamba' to be reclassified as a class A drug, similar to heroin and cocaine, arguing its impact is more comparable with heroin.

And the day's final debate led by Labour backbencher Chris Williamson is on the badger cull.

On the committee corridor, look out for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee's hearing (10.30am) on disinformation and 'fake news', where they will question the Information Commissioner, the Electoral Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority.

This has morphed into an inquiry into the events around the EU Referendum - and this set of evidence will be particularly interesting in the light of the decision to refer Leave.EU's key donor, Arron Banks, to the National Crime Agency.

And the Home Affairs Committee continues its inquiry into modern slavery (3.45pm) with evidence from organisations which provide help and support to victims of slavery and trafficking, on the difficulties experienced by victims in accessing support; the challenges posed by increasing numbers of victims in the UK; the government's recent reforms to support provision and the criminalisation of victims, including children involved in "county lines" exploitation.

In the Lords (11am) it's statutory instruments day. There will be SI approval motions on Freedom of Information, International Road Transport Permits, Road Safety Penalties, and Trailer Registration (to be debated together).

These are followed by more Brexit SIs on electronic money, and credit transfers and direct debits (to be debated together) and then another on the Deposit Guarantee Scheme.

Final business is an SI on devolved taxes in Wales.

Related Topics