This week in the Lords: 28 January – 1 February

House of LordsYes, just as late as has been the habit recently, here’s your heads up for events in the upper chamber this week… anyone would think that I didn’t have a day of my own…

It’s another long week for our Parliamentary Party, with a nod to the recent wintry weather, but Monday sees Day 2 of the Committee Stage of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, where Tony Greaves will seek to remove attempts to place further limits on the power to require information with planning applications. Frankly, when I see the word ‘reasonable’ in legislation, it worries me, and potentially obstructs the right of communities to play their role in planning policy. Other issues to be debated include affordable housing requirements and the stopping up and diversion of highways and public paths.

Before that though, Shirley Williams will be questioning the Minister on steps to reducing inequalities in health provision in line with the objectives of the NHS Mandate, whilst Phil Willis will be asking about plans to train and register health care support workers.

On Tuesday, Tony Greaves jousts with Baroness Hanham again, when he seeks to uncover the regional impact of the New Homes Bonus.

Wednesday sees oral questions on prospects for UK tourism in 2013 from John Lee, and on possible resolution of the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the death of Meles Zenawi, from David Chidgey. Day 3 of the Committee Stage of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill follows.

Oral questions emerge seemingly randomly from Peers, so the probability of having three from the Liberal Democrat benches on the same day is a remote one. Thursday is an exception. Sue Miller kicks off with a question about tackling wildlife crime, followed by Bill Bradshaw seeking to compare the level of railway fares in the UK with those in Europe. Finally, Mike Storey would like what the impact of the £250 million fund set up to help local councils in England maintain or restore weekly bin collections has been. Wouldn’t we all like to know?

Perhaps of equal interest will be a debate sought by Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market on the impact of student visa policy on admissions to universities in the UK and Northern Ireland. Given Vince Cable’s views on the wisdom of current policy, it will be intriguing to see what sort of defence emerges. I don’t expect to be convinced. And, for those interested in economic policy, EU Sub-Committee A will be holding a seminar on the impact of austerity in the EU.

Finally, Friday is Private Member’s Bill day, and what could be more appropriate than the Second Reading of the Antarctic Bill, introduced by Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. This addresses issues relating to environmental emergencies and, presumably, will be welcomed by penguins and environmentalists alike. Susan Kramer’s Presumption of Death Bill seeks to ease the burdens on the families of those who disappear, presumed dead, and will receive its Second Reading, having already passed all of its stages in the Commons.

Last, but not least, Ros Scott will be welcoming Lord Best’s Mobile Homes Bill, which aims to remove some of the most iniquitous restrictions on the rights of mobile home owners. Given that there are thought to be 300,000 people who will potentially benefit from this legislation, it is well worth publicising.

* Mark Valladares is the Friday day editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and will be on cat-sitting duty this week.

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