Week ahead in Parliament

Mark D'Arcy
Parliamentary correspondent

Media caption,
Theresa May tells MPs: "I don't pretend this has been a comfortable process."

The toxic fallout from the announcement of the government's proposed Brexit deal looks set to pervade parliamentary events across the coming week...

Watch out for a slew (can anybody think of a better collective noun) of urgent questions about No Deal preparations, with the not very concealed intention of ramping up tension levels.

And there is also a suggestion that some Conservative Brexiteers (and perhaps the DUP) will be looking for a way to flex their muscles and perhaps pull their backing from the government in some vote or other this week - as I write, the DUP say their "Confidence and Supply" deal, which binds them to support the government on money matters, still stands.

But as I will explain below, that might still leave some wriggle room when it comes to amendments to the Finance Bill on Monday and Tuesday.

The biggest fallout of all would be if a leadership confidence motion was held by the Conservative party.... an event which would doubtless spill over into the Commons chamber, with MPs rushing to defend or attack Theresa May, and potential successors preening at the dispatch box.

As I write, it is not clear if the required 48 MPs have written to their shop steward, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady; but if a confidence vote goes ahead, it is bound to have a pervasive influence on everything else in Westminster.

In the House of Lords there will also be fallout - but more to do with their lordships' unprecedented vote to reject the recommendation for a suspension of Lord Lester, for sexual harassment. The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee will now have to consider its next move - its chair, the Labour peer Lord McFall, said he was "deeply disappointed" but added the committee will now look at the concerns raised by peers about the process of the investigation. And he also expressed his sympathy to the complainant.

Meanwhile, there is a huge amount of secondary legislation passing through delegated legislation committees as the moment to make contingency preparations for financial services in a no deal scenario.

There will be two more of these sessions, on Monday and Wednesday. At the moment these attract little attention - but they could be very significant for the City of London.

Here's my rundown of the week ahead:

Monday 19 November

Image source, EPA

The Commons day begins (2.30 pm) Work and Pensions questions - a first outing for the brand new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.

Then MPs move on to day one of detailed scrutiny of the Finance Bill in a committee of the whole House (other parts of the bill will be considered later on in an ordinary bill committee). This is the bill to enact the changes announced by the Chancellor in the Budget, last month.

As happened last year, the government has not put down an "amendment to the law resolution", a move which limits the ability to make substantive changes to the bill.

This, in turn, forces the Opposition parties into the classic tactic of requiring the government to produce reports to parliament on various aspects of the Finance Bill package - and because they're not substantive, the DUP may feel able to vote for them.

The amendments cover income tax thresholds (the SNP want to raise the proposed income tax threshold from £12,500 to £12,750) and the post Brexit carbon emissions trading system (if the UK does not remain inside the EU system) and there are amendments calling for reports on the Budget impact on child poverty and equality, on the regions of England, and the changes to entrepreneurs' relief.

Most interestingly, there is an amendment calling for a comparison of the effects of the Budget measures if there is a negotiated Brexit agreement as compared to what would happen if the UK had remained a member of the EU - this is backed by a cross party alliance of Labour and Conservative Remainers (the cast list, which includes such luminaries as the Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry, plus Labour's Chris Leslie, Chukka Umunna and Stella Creasey, as well as the Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, looks rather like a new centre party in the making).

This amendment requires the first use of powers intended to modify tax legislation in the event of a no-deal Brexit to be accompanied by a statement of the circumstances and the comparative analysis, all underpinned by an OBR assessment.

In Westminster Hall, there is a Petitions Committee debate on e-petition 219905: "If there is no agreement by the deadline for reaching agreement with the EU during the talks then Brexit should be stopped, as leaving with no deal will be very bad for businesses and for the Irish border issue and for EU citizens living here."

This attracted 109,560 signatures, and a government response, namely: "Whilst striking a deal with our EU partners remains the outcome we expect, 'no deal' plans are well-developed and we stand ready to make a success of Brexit, whatever the outcome of our negotiations."

My committee corridor pick is the Housing, Communities and Local Government hearing (4pm) on leasehold reform, where the MPs will be looking at progress since the government's consultation on tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market. The committee will hear from developers, freeholders and managing agents - including Bellway, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey.

Having heard evidence from leaseholders of escalating ground rents, opaque service charges and dispute mechanisms that fail to provide a level playing field, the session will examine the key issues that have led to calls for reform of the leasehold system from the perspective of major firms who build and maintain residential properties in the UK.

In the Lords (2.30pm) peers debate two select committee reports - the first is on the ad-hoc committee report on Artificial Intelligence, AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? .

The committee, led by the Lib Dem peer, Lord Clement-Jones, makes a series of recommendations on how Britain can exploit emerging new technologies. The second is, The Ties That Bind, the report of the Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, chaired by the Conservative, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.

The Commons opens (11.30am) with Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions, with secretary of state Greg Clark batting for the government and its Brexit deal.

Then, they move on to day two of the Finance Bill committee stage - the government appears to have pre-emptively caved-in to the big cross-party amendments on Fixed-Odds-Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The backers included Labour's Carolyn Harris and former Conservative Leader Iain Duncan Smith, former Children's Minister Tim Loughton, and some unusual rebels like ex minister Sir Mike Penning and former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon. But there remain other amendments on a review of remote gambling duty, and on tax avoidance.

Media caption,
What are fixed-odds betting terminals?

In Westminster Hall, debates include: road Safety and the legal framework - led by Labour's Ruth Cadbury, and the Conservative John Lamont (9.30am) and the strategic importance of the new Royal Navy base in Bahrain - led by Conservative defence expert Leo Docherty (11am).

On the committee corridor, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee examines the role of the UK government in seeking compensation for the victims of IRA attacks using Semtex and other weapons by the former Gaddafi regime. The government has committed to take a more "visibly proactive approach" after a previous inquiry highlighted a series of missed opportunities to secure compensation for victims.

Watch out, too, for the Health and Social Care Committee session on the implications of the Budget for its area (2.30pm) and the Foreign Affairs hearing (2.45pm) on Global Britain and India - part of an ambitious looking attempt to work out a post-Brexit foreign policy.

In the Lords (2.30 pm), peers will canter through some uncontroversial Commons amendments to the Civil Liability Bill, the third reading of the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill, and then the final part of the committee stage of the Tenants Fees Bill - where the key issue is default fees.

The last and main business is a four hour debate on the government's draft Brexit deal. Peers have little direct leverage over this; while MPs have a "Meaningful Vote" which may allow them to attach terms and conditions to the deal, and peers will simply have a "take note" motion, to allow them to discuss it - or as wits in the Bishops' Bar call it, "the Meaningless Vote".

Another tricky departmental question time begins Commons proceedings (11.30am) with International Development Secretary and potential Cabinet refusnik Penny Morduant on her feet for half an hour before what promises to be another ticklish Prime Minister's Questions at noon.

Labour's Fabian Hamilton has Ten Minute Rule Bill requiring the person registering a marriage or civil partnership to ensure there is valid consent from both parties.

The main event is the second reading of the Fisheries Bill - the second big Brexit bill to emerge from Michael Gove's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Like most Brexit bills it contains sweeping powers to implement an, as yet unmade, agreement with the EU. There is a great deal of concern in fishing ports over the possibility of continued access by EU fishing boats to UK waters.

Image source, James Duncan

In particular this is a very live issue for Scottish Conservatives - who are extremely concerned about a linkage between access for EU vessels to UK waters and tariff-free access for UK seafood suppliers to the EU market. The Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, will lead for the government, but it's a good bet that Opposition MPs will want to get onto the DEFRA secretary's attitude towards the prime minister's proposed Brexit deal - inventive minds will be devising ways to introduce that subject.

It's a busy day for Mr Gove, who's also before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2.45pm) to give talk about whether Defra is ready for Brexit.

And there's also an interesting-looking session of the Women and Equalities Committee (9.50am) on Women in the House of Commons - the witnesses include Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, co-chair of the Conservative group, Women2win; Nan Sloane, training co-ordinator of the Labour Women's Network, and Westminster observer Isabel Hardman of The Spectator.

In Westminster Hall, debates include the Welsh Conservative David T. C. Davies on proposals to allow self-identification of gender (9.30am); Labour's Ann Coffey on rape myths and juries (11am) and ex-nurse and Labour MP Eleanor Smith on investing in nursing higher education in England (2.30 pm).

In the Lords (3pm), the main event is the first half-day of report stage consideration of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which deals with the authorising arrangements for the care or treatment of people who lack capacity to consent to it, including when it involves a deprivation of their liberty.

The issues in play include the role of care home managers in safeguards for cared-for persons; the information requirements for cared-for persons and access to advocacy and independent professional advice and support.

Another day, another question time with a Brexiteer cabinet minister being goaded about the prime minister's deal. This time (9.30am) it's Chris Grayling at Transport questions.

Then comes the weekly Business Statement from the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom. There will be a keen interest in the proposed scheduling of the "Meaningful Vote" on the deal.

The main event is a general debate on the Armed Forces Covenant. After the prime minister's statement on the Brexit deal cut short the time available for this week's debate on the government's new veterans' strategy, this will allow the subject to be revisited at more length - and it may well see more pressure on ministers over the continuing investigation of historic allegations against UK service personnel.

In Westminster Hall, there's another debate keeping up pressure on the WASPI issue - the state pension entitlement for women born in the 1950s.

In the Lords (11am) there are a series of "balloted debates" on subjects chosen by backbench peers: first on the progress made in integrating the Universal Sustainable Development Goals; the second is from Labour's Lord McConnell on children displaced from their homes internationally and government, UN and EU support for them.

The lunchtime mini-debate is on the process for granting asylum on the grounds of religious persecution in the light of the Asia Bibi case.

It is back to private members' bills in the Commons (from 9.30am) where the agenda lists no fewer than 122 bills for consideration (27 of them from Friday frequent flyer, Sir Christopher Chope).

The subjects range from bat habitats to cats, but, realistically, only the first three or four bills have any chance of being debated. Top of the list is the remaining stages (report and third reading) of Dr Sarah Wollaston's Stalking Protection Bill.

This aims to deal with a gap in the law on stalking, which is mostly configured around stalking by ex-partners, by focusing more on the problem of "stranger stalkers".

And it also provides for anti-stalking orders which can be issued "on the balance of probability" to restrain stalking, when it may not be possible to reach the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard of proof required for criminal cases.

They could cover banning people from approaching a person and their friends and family, in the digital as well as physical world, and breaches could result in criminal penalties. This bill commands enthusiastic government support, so it seems set fair to clear the Commons and go to the Lords.

Then MPs will turn to the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill from the Conservative, Sir Greg Knight. This aims to ensure the private parking sector operates in a consistent and transparent manner for the motorist.

Next on the agenda are second reading debates for a series of bills from Sir Christopher Chope - on Voter Registration, Student Loans (Debt Interest) and Border Control Bill. At this stage of the parliamentary year these have no chance of making progress - but they do provide a chance to raise an issue, and perhaps extract some comment from the government.

It's also private members' bill day in the Lords - first is the committee stage of the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, which could be formal.

This is followed by the second readings of the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill; and the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation Bill) - which both cleared the Commons with government support, and have a good chance of becoming law.

Unusually, in the Moses Room (the Lordly equivalent of Westminster Hall) the committee stage of Bruce Grocott's much-filibustered House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill will be taken.

The bill has run into stiff resistance from Conservative peers Lord Caithness and Lord Trefgarne - but because votes are not held in Moses Room debates, proceedings cannot be delayed by forcing vote after vote.

This is a virtuoso manoeuvre by the bill's proposer, but, even so, his bill stands little chance of becoming law.