It wasn't too long ago that Parliament wouldn't have been back this week. They used to wait until after Conference season and take their places in early October. At some point, however, there was public outrage that MPs had such a long summer, so they agreed to meet for two weeks in early September before breaking for those conferences.
These two weeks aren't structured for major events. The government has timetabled a few pretty uncontroversial laws. We'll watch a couple of point scoring PMQs sessions. Time will pass. The issue is that nobody's mind is focused on the here and now. We've got conferences, the Budget, Brexit negotiations and more all to come. So what are these two weeks for? Dynamic stretching. Team Talks. Using that little whiteboard to draw tactics for the future.
In short, we're in the pre-season for what's going to be an almighty battle.
If you find this email useful / interesting, why not get your friends to sign up for it, too? With everything that's going to happen between now and Christmas, they might be quite grateful. All they need is this link: http://eepurl.com/bhUGhP.Monday - OK, so when I said that Parliament was back, I didn't mean immediately. They're not sitting on Monday. They're probably all around though. Let's call it an INSET day...
Tuesday - The first day back and we're bound to hear from some ministers wanting to 'update the House' on a few things. Maybe we'll hear from Michael Gove wanting to tell us about his puppy / kitten sale ban from pet shops, or Grayling might update us on trains. Or whatever. We may also get an urgent question or two - when an MP wants an answer on a specific and timely issue. They are harder to predict, and much depends on the political developments over the weekend, but Birmingham prison, or maybe Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could well come up.
Once those issues are dealt with, MPs will move on to debating the Civil Liability Bill. It's all about stopping bogus whiplash claims - details are below.
Meanwhile, over in the Lords, there will be some frustration. The Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill's up in front of peers. It's a vital piece of Brexit legislation and you may remember a lot of hype around it in the Commons before the break. The trouble is, because it's what is known as a 'supply bill' (to do with money, not policy), they can't change it. Or vote against it. So they can all stand up and say how terrible it all is, but they have no actual power.
What they have done instead is to table a 'motion of regret', which, if passed, means that the Lords are registering how unhappy they are. I'd expect lots of members of the House of Lords to do this, it may even pass. The government, though, won't really care.
Wednesday - During these long, desolate and abandoned weeks of summer recess, Wednesday 5th September has stood out as a da to cling on for. The Commons will be packed for the first PMQs of the new term. Expect cheers, jeers and general fun and games.
Those busy MPs have then got not one, but two Bills to get through. First up, it's the Tenancy Fees Bill. It's there to make life a little easier for tenants. Labour say it hardly scratches the surface of what needs to be done. It will pass.
The other Bill, which will also pass, is the Voyerism (Offences) No.2 Bill. It bans upskirting. You may remember this Bill not going through first time because an MP shouted 'Object' at the wrong time. That's why this is the 'No.2'. It's a government Bill now, so no single word interjections can prevent its inevitable entry onto the statute book (the book of laws).
Also, at 2.30, you might like to keep an eye out for Dominic Raab giving evidence on Brexit to the EU scrutiny select committee. It'll be nice to have an update.
Thursday - It's important not to overstretch yourself in these early stages. Manageable, bite-sized chunks. That's what's needed. So, after two days of quite a lot of action, Thursday has a quieter vibe. A couple of general debates, a committee report on e-cigarettes, a debate on careers advice in schools. That kind of thing.
Friday - No Parliament. Time for hobbies.
Our pick of the laws being debated in Parliament next week.
Civil Liability Bill
The Government made a commitment in its election manifesto to regulate whiplash claims after car accidents because whiplash claims have risen considerably, when road traffic accident rates have actually fallen and car safety devices have improved. The Government also says that this has resulted in higher insurance premiums in England and Wales. The Bill will ban the practice of making a whiplash claim without medical evidence and make a tariff for the amount of money issued in compensation claims. Some compensation lawyers have already criticised this bill as sacrificing compassion for victims in favour of lower insurance premiums.
Renters currently pay an average of £200-£300 in letting fees per tenancy although many pay significantly more than this. This Bill will deliver the Government's commitment to banning letting fees paid by tenants as well as capping tenancy deposits in England to no more than six weeks rent. This will mean that tenants will be able to see, at a glance, what a given property will cost them in the advertised rent with no hidden costs such as administration fees from letting agents, which will be paid by the landlord instead of the tenant and should make letting fees more competitive, rather than the assumption that whatever fee is charged will automatically paid by the tenant.
This Bill will make it illegal to photograph, or video, people under their clothing (commonly known as “upskirting”) without their consent. It will update the Sexual Offences Act, so there no longer needs to be separate witnesses to the offence, and the worst offenders will be placed on the sex offenders register.
The Bill was originally a Private Members’ Bill, but it was talked out of the House of Commons and ran out of time to progress and become law. This caused an outcry from the public and from many MPs, and so the Home Secretary agreed to reintroduce it as a Government Bill, giving it a much greater chance of becoming law.