Whilst rumours of a list of new Peers swirls around the Palace of Westminster, the Lords returns to work on Tuesday, and a somewhat lop-sided week continues through to Friday in order to fit in the postponed debate on Leveson.
Never let it be said though that the Lords needs a gentle warm-up before asking the difficult questions. Tuesday sees oral questions on airport capacity in London, housebuilding in South East England and the effect of the ‘fiscal cliff’ solution on the UK economy, before the Growth and Infrastructure Bill receives its Second Reading. Yes, that’s the one that proposes, amongst other things, to offer employees the opportunity to sign away their employment rights in exchange for shares. I can’t frankly see it having much positive impact, although it might offer another opportunity for bad employers to abuse their staff further.
Elsewhere, the Orders abolishing British Shipbuilders and the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Arbitration Tribunal are in Grand Committee as part of the ‘bonfire of quangos’ that was promised. Didn’t make a huge impact on the public consciousness, did it? And, on the committee corridors, the European Union Committee continues its evidence gathering on EU Enlargement.
On Wednesday, Dick Newby takes the Public Service Pensions Bill through its Committee Stage. I won’t comment, given my blatant conflict of interest, but needless to say, the public sector unions aren’t terribly happy. Anthony Lester ends the day with a debate on UK government-funded medical care for women and girls impregnated by rape in armed conflict. In Grand Committee, meanwhile, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill enters Day 6 of its Committee Stage but the most entertainment is likely to be had at the Constitution Committee, who will be grilling someone called Nick Clegg about the success of the Government’s constitutional reform agenda. Seriously though, this is an annual evidence session, and provides a platform for Nick to outline what is intended for 2013’s legislative schedule.
Curiously, the legislative programme for Thursday is all in Grand Committee, with two pieces of European legislation, the European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Bill and the European Union (Approvals) Bill going through their Committee stages, whilst in the Main Chamber, debates on disability services for people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and bees are scheduled. However, those interested in diversity issues will be drawn to the recommendation for a Reasoned Opinion on the EU Committee’s report on women on boards.
The EU Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality provides for national parliaments to scrutinise draft legislation specifically on the issue of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, and for a reasoned opinion procedure where a proposal is found not to comply with the principle. Any chamber of a national parliament may submit a reasoned opinion (Article 6 of the Protocol). If there are enough of them, a review of the proposal will be triggered (the “yellow or orange card”) in accordance with Article 7 of the Protocol.
The EU Committee has concluded that the proposal from Brussels that there should be mandatory quotas for women on boards is a breach of the Protocol, and wishes to have it reviewed.
And finally, Friday sees the postponed debate on the Lord Justice Leveson report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press. Expect an awful lot of unhappiness about press standards, especially as the noble Lord Prescott is likely to intervene.
* Mark Valladares subscribes to the Letter of the Lords, and thinks that you should too…