Brexit, Brexit; still Universal Credit and Brexit; nothing else holds fashion.
Keen readers of this email won't be surprised to hear that it's another pretty quiet week in Parliament. Very little in the way fo actual laws being made. Plenty of debates around other things.
What looks to be the highlight of the week in the Commons will come on Wednesday, when the Labour Party have an Opposition Day. That means they get to put forward a motion of their choice. The Conservative Party have recently taken to not attempting to win those votes, so the motions tend to pass unopposed and officially register as a government defeat. It's rare, though, that this leads to any action being taken.
This week Labour are splitting their allocated time into two slots - one to criticise Universal Credit - which they have now said, for the first time, that they would scrap - and the other to look at social care funding. Both debates will see Labour MPs joined by other opposition parties in calling the government out.
It may look like mischievous timing, though, from Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative minister in charge of timetabling the Commons. That's because Wednesday is the first day of a vital EU summit to discuss Brexit. Eyes may well be turned to Brussels and not the UNiversal Credit vote in Parliament.
This is the summit that for many months now has been earmarked as the time to shake hands on the withdrawal deal. It now looks like there may not be quite enough progress to sort this and there might be an emergency summit in November, too. The big sticking point right now is the backstop for Northern Ireland.
It comes down to this - the EU wants to sign an agreement that if nothing else works, Northern Ireland will stay in the Single Market until arrangements can be made. Theresa May says that we don't need a backstop because the Chequers plan keeps the border open anyway. The DUP say they will withdraw support from the government, including voting against this month's budget, if she does anything that could even potentially see Northern Ireland have a different set of rules to the rest of the UK. The PM will hope to negotiate these red lines (that DUP leader Arlene Foster calls 'blood red') and finish with a deal we can all get behind.
Sunday - Brexit will be on the agenda (for a nice change) on the politics TV shows. Probs a bit of Universal Credit, too. Just to keep things fresh. Tune in. Monday - Who wants teenagers carrying knives? Nobody, that's who. Today sees the Offensive Weapons Bill (details below) back in the Commons for a final time before it hits the House of Lords later this month.
There's also a debate in Westminster Hall (the 2nd debating chamber for MPs) on a petition calling for a new independent body for the protection of racehorses. This follows the petition receiving 105,361 signatures.
Tuesday - MPs have a household chores type day today. a little ping pong with the Lords on the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill (details below), and some other bits and pieces. Nothing to get the heart racing. The Lords are looking at modernising the court system (again, details below).
Wednesday - Normally PMQs would be the big news, but Theresa May will be in Brussels (I think, it's possible I'm wrong and she'll leave after PMQs), so it will be Lidington and Thornberry at the big set piece. These two are pretty good at sparring, so are always worth a watch.
It'll then be that big Labour day of Universal Credit and Social Care Funding.
Over in Brussels, the negotiations will be on. It can be hard to know how these things are going while they are still happening, but expect leaks and briefings to dominate the news.
Thursday - Parliament are sitting. MPs debate supermarket supply chains and World Menopause Day. The Lords are on music education in schools amongst other things.
Attention, though, will firmly be on what's going on in Brussels. Will there be some kind of deal? Will the DUP be happy? Will we need the emergency option in November? We'll find al this out today. Whatever happens, it will be a big deal. Stick with us on social media and we'll keep you in the loop.
Friday - And that's it in Parliament. MPs will be back in their constituencies today. Unhappy about something? Why not try to make an appointment to see them and tell them about it?
ps - apologies for the obscure Shakespeare reference in the title of this email, the original quote, as I'm sure you know, comes from Troilus and Cressida and goes 'lechery, lechery; wars and lechery; nothing else holds fashion, a burning devil take them'. It's a great line from a great play.
Our pick of the laws being debated in Parliament next week.
Offensive Weapons Bill
Knife crime increased by 22% in the UK in 2017, and between 2013 and 2017 the number of recorded corrosive substance (acid) attacks increased from 183 to 504.
This Bill will make it harder for people to buy knives and acid online, and will make it illegal to possess certain weapons such as knuckle dusters, flick knives, and rapid firing rifles. These measures form part of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy announced earlier this year and could get cross party support, however the opposition parties regard lack of police resources one of the main causes of increasing crime, which is not a factor this Bill addresses.
Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill
The Government made a commitment to modernising the courts and this Bill is the first set of court reform measures to be introduced. The Bill will introduce much greater flexibility to the deployment of judges.
It will also free up judges’ time to focus on more complex matters by allowing suitably qualified and experienced court and tribunal staff to be authorised to handle uncontroversial, straightforward matters under judicial supervision.
The measures in the Bill will also increase the efficiency of the courts and tribunals.
Rating (Property in Common Occupation and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill
Although the number of empty homes has fallen since they started being recorded in 2004, the Chancellor made a commitment in the 2017 Autumn Budget to enable councils to double the council tax levy on homes that have been empty for two or more years from 50% to 100% with a view to bringing them back into use, thus increasing housing stock and discouraging crimes such as vandalism, and squatting. The Bill also says that businesses with more than one office or space within a single building should only pay one set of business rates, where currently they can be charged multiple times.