I want to be very clear on this. Parliament is important. It matters very much. Yes. Sure. Not much is going on right now. It might look a little irrelevant. Something of a distraction. The truth is that Brexit dominates everything. How can our legislators do things when we don't know how the country is going to look in 5 months time? We don't even know the vibes we'll be running with. We could have shaken hands on a very satisfying Brexit withdrawal deal and be on our way to a happy future of trading together. Or we could have no deal and be flying headfirst to a new PM / second vote / General Election.
So what is Parliament up to this week? MPs have the Bill about the budget (which will change if we don't get a deal) and a Bill about healthcare around the world post-Brexit. Sure, the Labour Party are trying to bring the focus back to the UK with debates on mental health provision and school funding. But, with everything going on elsewhere, these debates unlikely to attract the attention they might have done in other times.
What we've got is Parliament in a holding pattern. All most Members can do is wait. Wait for that meaningful vote, or a debate that suggests what will happen to that meaningful vote. Very shortly (possibly), Parliament will be very, very important. There will be significant debates. The future of our country will be decided. Every vote will count.
For now, though, it's technical and complicated Bills, with a bit of added Opposition sound and fury for good measure. And, you know what? I think we're going to miss these days.
Sunday - The main news of Sunday is the Armistice Day. The whole country will come together to remember those who have died in war.
Despite what's coming up in Parliament, Sunday morning will be all about Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit. Tune in for all the fun that that entails. Monday - After a bit of recess action, MPs are back and ready to make some laws. They start with the Finance Bill, which is the Bill that puts in place all the Budget-y bits from last week. There is talk of some big amendments here, not least around the delay in introducing the reduction in maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. That's not for today, though. This is the Second Reading which is a general debate on the principles. Amendments come later.
Also, as ever after a bit of a break, there are bound to be some interesting ministerial statements and Urgent Questions.
Tuesday - It's an Opposition Day. That means the Labour Party get to set the agenda. They've chosen two topics, mental health and school funding. These are pretty big topics and the exact motions will be announced next week.
Wednesday - PMQs! We've not been on a vintage run of PMQs. Most weeks both the Prime Minister and Corbyn have felt a little auto-piloty. We've had a week off though, and with the two major themes of the end of austerity and Brexit, Corbyn has lots he could go on. Fingers crossed for a good one today!
After that, we've got another Brexit Bill. This one is needed to set up reciprocal healthcare with other countries, so we can use their hospitals and they can use ours if needed. More details below.
Thursday- The main business of the day, for both Commons and Lords, is The Veterans Strategy. Money was announced for this in the budget and the breakdown has been announced since then. It includes almost £12m to give veterans from the Commonwealth two meals a day.
Friday - No Parliament today. MPs will be in their constituencies, or Brussels, or somewhere.
Our pick of the laws being debated in Parliament next week.
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill
This Bill will give the Government powers to set up and fund healthcare deals with other countries after it leaves the EU. At the moment the UK has Reciprocal Healthcare agreements with other countries based on its EU membership. These agreements support people from the UK to obtain healthcare when they live in, work in or visit other countries and vice versa, for people from other EU countries in the UK. The Bill has already attracted some criticism as it does not mention retaining the European Healthcare Insurance Card that ministers had previously said they would consider.
This Bill will provide the legal framework for the UK to leave the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after Brexit. The main focus of the Bill is to end direct payments (which are based on the amount of land being farmed and therefore give the greater rewards to the largest landowners) and to set out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. The Bill also contains the powers for the Government to offer financial assistance to incentivise farmers’ productivity.
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
This Bill aims to strengthen the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy and is partly in response to the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury earlier this year. It will introduce a number of new laws, including the ability of police and immigration officers to question people suspected of hostile activities at airports and ports, and then potentially deport them. It will also introduce longer sentences of up to 15 years for terrorist propaganda offences and make it easier to tackle those who stream or repeatedly view extremist material online. As with most counter-terrorism measures this will be heavily scrutinised by civil liberties and human rights groups.