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Too. Much. Politics.
There has recently been talk of Parliament grinding to a halt. Everything going on with Brexit is just too all-consuming and so Parliament itself might have to take a back seat. Next week, though, it will feel very far from irrelevant. There are many, many big and important debates to be had. Northern Ireland, guns, Brexit, abortion, the ivory trade, farming, housing and more will all be debated and discussed at length.
You’ll be pleased to hear, therefore, that this section will be brief – you really need to get stuck into the daily preview below.
There’s just one item I need to brief you on and that’s the Offensive Weapons Bill rebellion. This is a Bill to stop (mostly) teenagers from killing each other. As such it makes it harder to buy knives, knuckle dusters, acid and that kind of thing. It also makes bans more guns than had been previously banned. Including the 0.51 calibre rifle. These are often used in long-distance shooting sports.
A group of 33 Conservative MPs have put down an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill that would put in place ‘higher security measures’, but with those in place would allow the ‘high energy rifle’ to continue to be used in sport. Thirty-three MPs is more than enough MPs to defeat the government.
And, do you know what? Theresa May could really do without a government defeat in teh Commons right now. Especially not from her own party. Especially with the potential public outcry over guns.
Saturday – What looks to be a huge protest in central London calling for a ‘People’s Vote’.
Sunday – With this much politics going on – Marr will, once again, be essential viewing. BBC One 10am. See you there.
Monday – After an EU Summit, it’s traditional for the PM to make a statement to the House. Now, this week Theresa May did so before she went. Still, I’d expect her to be back in front of MPs today. They might have a thing or two to say about extending the transition period and Irish plans. Her statement last week received a very rough ride – MPs want to show how angry they are as a way of talking up their particular faction’s position. Lots of bluster. Only time will tell if these angry words end in actual rebellious votes when the hour itself finally arrives. .
This time last week the Offensive Weapons Bill was shelved because of a statement from the Prime Minister. It’s due back in the Commons today, but with a rebellion looming, there’s always a chance it’ll be shelved again. If it isn’t it will be interesting to see how many rebels, er…, stick to their guns.
Over in Westminster Hall, this week’s petition debate is to ‘Prevent avoidable deaths by making autism/learning disability training mandatory’. Petitions are supposed to have 100,000+ signatures to get a debate. This one seems to have 51k, but the debate is going ahead nonetheless.
Tuesday – Very unusually, the scheduled highlight of the day is the Ten Minute Rule Bill. This never happens, because this is a sort of soap box slot when individual MPs can tout their idea for a new law. You’re given 10 minutes to make the case. Sometimes someone makes a speech to cover the countervailing voice. There is sometimes a vote. Officially, at that point, the date of the next stage (a general debate) is determined, but inevitably the Bill is lost in the bottomless pit of other niche Bills.
Today’s Ten Minute Rule Bill is about decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. After the referendum in the Republic of Ireland, abortion is available there, as it is in the rest of the UK. Theresa May says that abortion is a devolved matter and can only be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly. The issue here is that the Assembly hasn’t been sitting since January 2017 and shows little signs of coming to back together. In short, right now, they can’t make the chance themselves.
It’s being brought to us by Diana Johnson, a Labour MP, but crucially, it is co-sponsored by MPs from 5 different political parties. This is, clearly, a very serious matter. The arguments will be made and a vote will be forced. This should start around 12.30 and whatever your views on the matter, it’ll be well worth a watch.
Away from that, Parliament is cracking on with a few Bills, the Civil Liability Bill (that’s the one about whiplash claims on insurance) is in the Commons, a small group of MPs is looking at the Agricultural Bill (the replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy) and the Lords are on the upskirting Bill.
Wednesday – Last week PMQs was just awful. Like a play that’s just been running for too long, both Corbyn and May trotted through the same old lines, with little enthusiasm or signs they really mean it. I’m an optimist, though, and I think this week is going to be much better. Much, much better. Please. Let it be better. Sob.
The main business of the Commons today is all about Northern Ireland. See below for details. Lords are focussing on the ban on the sale of ivory.
Thursday – First up, at 9.30, Dominic Raab and his team take Brexit questions from MPs. IT’s looking like it will be quite a grilling. The rest of the day is pretty quiet across both chambers. Some general debates, including one in the Commons about putting folic acid in all flour. This is something that appears to come up every year. Some love the idea – it’s really good for pregnant people and harmless to everyone else. It doesn’t taste of anything, so it’s only good news. Other people hate the idea. A lot. They think there is no way that the government should be putting stuff in our food. No. Way.
Friday – Private Members Bill Friday Klaxon!
Normally these are Bills that have reared their head to make a point and then die an inevitable death. That’s because the Parliamentary year isn’t long enough for them to jump through all the hoops necessary. This year, though, we’ve got a double session to cover Brexit legislation. That means that these PMBs have a real chance. Today, then, rather than having a load of slightly out there ideas, we’ve got three Bills with public and cross party support. And they are all finishing their journey through the Commons. These are a Bill about ensuring homes are fit for human habitation, a (recently backed by Theresa May) Bill that allows any couple to have a civil partnership and a bill about presumed consent (and opt out system) for organ donors.
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