Unfortunately neither of the main debates are being held on the day they would ideally prefer. Yesterday was of course St. David’s Day the Patron Saint of Wales and the annual debate on Welsh affairs is one of the two debates scheduled by the Backbench Business for debate today. The other is a debate to mark International Women’s Day which actually takes place on 8th March. That date is the scheduled date for the budget so today is as near as we could get.
As I predicted the House of Lords amended the Brexit Bill yesterday by including a clause guaranteeing European Union citizens a right of residence here in the UK without any reciprocal rights for UK citizens being agreed. No basis to go into the negotiations. I expect the amendment will be reversed by the House of Commons and the Bill sent back to the Lords.
The Bus Services Bill was given it’s Second Reading. As a member of the Panel of Chairs I have been appointed as one of the two co-Chairmen of the Bill at Committee Stage along with the Labour MP Albert Owens.
The Bill which updates the powers available to the police and security services takes another step towards finally reaching the statute book today when the House of Commons considers the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Investigatory Powers Bill. I support the Bill. Firstly it has been subject to the most extensive pre-legislative scrutiny. Secondly, I want the police and the security services to have power they need to try and prevent further terrorist attacks on the UK. Thirdly, I am not convinced that the powers will be misused. I believe there are sufficient safeguards in place and I do not believe that the security services are going to spend time just checking up on the internet activities of people who are just going about their lawful business.
Before that Bill is considered there are questions to the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice. This morning I have a meeting with representatives of the Manchester Airports Group following the announcement of the Heathrow expansion plan. This afternoon I am attending a meeting of the Backbench Business Committee.
One thing I did not report on last week was that the annual elections to the Backbench Business Committee have been held, The Chairman Ian Mearns MP was re-elected first. Under the standing orders the chairman must come from the Opposition benches. Then each Party elects their own members and I was re-elected to serve on the Committee. The new line up including two new Conservative MP’s from the 2015 intake were confirmed by the whole House last night. We had our first meeting of the current session today.
The main business today in the House of Commons was determined by the Backbench Business Committee which I sit on. After Energy questions there will be debates on the compensation being paid to Equitable Life policyholders followed by a debate on the sea bass stocks.
This evening I am scheduled to attend a meeting in Bury South on the progress of the clean up operation following the terrible Christmas floods.
Yesterday, the Charities ( Protection and Social Investment) Bill passed its final stages in the Commons. It has already been through the House of Lords. The Bill provides stronger protection for charities from individuals who are unfit to be Trustees. The Bill also gives the Charity Commission more powers to tackle abuse and gives charities a new power to make social investments that is to say investments which provide both a financial and social return. The Bill was generally supported by the Opposition.
In the afternoon I attended this week’s Backbench Business Committee where there were applications for debate on the conflict in Yemen, Welsh affairs, parliamentary Sovereignty and the EU re-negotiation, the role of men in ending violence against women and the financials problems arising out of the collapse of Equitable Life. All were in order so when time becomes available debates will be scheduled for these matters to be considered.