What's the big story right now? Yep. Brexit. We're going to actually trigger Article 50. It's a pretty big deal. But that's not going to happen until next week. So that leaves this week a little empty. What happens in an empty week? Rumours circulate, that's what. So you may have heard that Momentum and Unite are going to 'destroy the Labour Party'. Or that there might be a General Election in May. Or whatever. These things are not likely to happen.
So what is happening in this inbetweener week? Well, we're at the time of year that laws are actually being made. Reaching the end of the journey. Don't forget that most laws start in May with the Queen's Speech and then gradually complete the process through the year, ending up in the Spring. We start the week though with an exception to that. Monday sees the first big debate on the new Prison and Courts Bill. It's a big law and they'll vote today to allow it to go into next year. The Lords are debating the Digital Economy Bill which tinkers at getting us all better and safer internet.
While Parliament debate Parking, Broadcasting and Intellectual Property on Tuesday, the focus may well be north of the border. The Scottish Parliament will start to debate their vote on independence. If the Scottish Green Party join the SNP and vote for it, they'll pass it at some point on Wednesday. Then the pressure will step up on May. Our hunch is that she'll stand her ground and offer a referendum after we've left the EU. That's a total guess, though.
Also on Wednesday, we've got PMQs, and debates on Pensions, Higher Education, more on the Digital Economy and a bit of Brexit for those who need their fix. Thursday is a quiet day in Westminster - lots of bits and bobs being debated. Biggest of which is the Homelessness Reduction Bill very nearly completing its way through Parliament. It'll put more pressure on councils to sort out local homelessness. First Minister's Questions at 12.00 in Scotland was pretty intense last week. It may well be again this time round.
And then Friday. There's lots of confusion about Friday. Throughout the Parliamentary Year, lots and lots of laws are introduced. Most know they will never be debated again after the introduction. What happens to them is that they are all piled into a Friday in March. So, if you stumble across the horrible to use Parliament website calendar, you'll see hundreds of laws queued up. Everything from Diabetes Inpatient Care to Clean Air to Wild Animals in Circuses. Very few will be debated. None will become law.
Oh - and on Friday we'll return this email to its normal slot.
Our pick of the laws being debated in Parliament next week...
Prisons and Courts Bill
This proposes widescale reforms of prisons, the courts and whiplash compensation. It aims to rehabilitate offenders as well as punishing them, and transfers powers to prison Governors to do that. It also sets out a massive investment in IT for the courts and expands the use of virtual court hearings, especially for vulnerable witnesses. It will also cap compensation pay-outs for whiplash claims, and require medical evidence.
This will bring in a ‘universal service obligation’ for internet access. So every person would have the legal right to broadband which is at least 10Mbps, in the same way people have the right to a phone line and postal services. Most MPs are supportive of this but implementing it is more difficult in rural and hard to reach areas.
It will also enforce age checking on 'adult' websites.