It may only be February, but like schools, half-term is approaching fast (don’t forget, Easter is a bit earlier this year). And with the break starting on Friday, there’s still quite a bit of business to squeeze in. Curiously, there are no oral questions or debates initiated from the Liberal Democrat benches all week, but the agenda isn’t without interest.
On Monday most attention will be focussed on the Second Reading of the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. Baroness Stowell of Beeston has the unenviable task of leading for the Government, although given that votes are unusual at Second Reading, she’ll probably get away with it… this time. The Third Reading of the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill, mentioned last week, is expected to pass without incident, and a good thing too.
Given the amount of fuss that is made about fraud and the EU budget, one might expect a lot of coverage when the European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud comes to town. Sadly, Algirdas Šemeta’s visit to London to give evidence to EU Sub-Committee E (Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection) will go almost entirely unnoticed by the Daily Express. I’m guessing that they’re just not set up to print an ‘Š’…
Tuesday’s highlight will undoubtedly be the Second Reading of the Hertfordshire County Council (Filming on Highways) Bill, intended as part of the county’s bid to replace Hollywood as the centre of film-making excellence worldwide. Alright, perhaps not, although quite a bit of serious film-making does take place at Leavesden and Elstree, but it is a short bill which does what it says in the title. More interestingly for process geeks, this is a Private Bill, which permits organisations, like local authorities or private companies, to give themselves powers beyond, or in conflict with, the general law, in this case with regard to filming on public highways.
More importantly, the Public Service Pensions Bill reaches its Report Stage, and there will doubtless be further attempts by Labour to reduce the impact of this piece of legislation, whilst Dick Newby will attempt to repel boarders on behalf of the Government. Luckily, or not, depending on your viewpoint, he does know what he’s doing. And, if that wasn’t enough, the Scrap Dealers Bill receive its Third Reading.
There’ll be entertainment to be had as the Human Rights Joint Committee quizzes Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, on the Government’s Human Rights Policy. I wonder if the subject of children’s rights will come up?
Wednesday is deathly quiet, but Thursday sees the Second Reading of the Succession to the Crown Bill, to be piloted through by Jim Wallace, whereby the State will interfere in the rights of royalty to marry as they choose. Even better, it repeals the The Royal Marriages Act 1772 which provides that, subject to certain exceptions, a descendant of King George II may marry only with the consent of the Sovereign. Time for Harry to elope then…
And with that, Barons and Baronesses, Earls and Countesses will head back out to the country, almost entirely unnoticed by the public as they do so, to return on 25 February.
* Mark Valladares will be on a top secret mission next week. This column will return, with luck, in a fortnight’s time…
* Mark Valladares is a member of ALDE Party Council and takes up his role as a member of the International Relations Committee on 1 January 2015