Commons Gallery: what to watch out for this week

Posted On: 
24th November 2017

Budget reaction, PMBs on prisons and Parliamentary constituencies and Gavin Williamson makes his despatch box debut. Sebastian Whale looks at what’s coming up this week

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson will take his first departmental questions on Monday at 2.30
Credit: 
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Gavin & Penny

It’s an exciting week in the Commons chamber, with Gavin Williamson and Penny Mordaunt making their respective debuts at the despatch box since becoming secretaries of state. Williamson will be first up in the Commons at 2.30 for Defence Questions. The former chief whip has not spoken from the frontbenches before, and with a somewhat charged response to his appointment as Michael Fallon’s successor, all eyes will be on the 41-year-old to see how he handles the pressure.

Penny Mordaunt’s first appearance at the despatch box will arrive on Wednesday morning at 11.30 when she takes International Development Questions. The former DWP minister took over the department following Priti Patel’s resignation earlier this month. A welcome choice on the Tory backbenches, what will her agenda be for DfID? With a packed chamber watching on before PMQs, this session should shed more light. Elsewhere, it will be worth watching out for the SNP’s opposition day debate on Wednesday afternoon on a topic still to be decided at time of going to print.

Get your Phil

It’s the week after the budget before, and there’s no let up for the Chancellor. Philip Hammond will face MPs at Treasury questions on Tuesday morning at 11.30, with the budget debate concluding at the end of the day. Representatives from the IFS and the Resolution Foundation are due to unpick the Budget at 9.30 on Wednesday with the Work and Pensions select committee. Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, will chat with MPs on the Treasury team at 10 on Thursday morning. And on Wednesday 6th December, Hammond himself will be before the Treasury Select Committee. Will his budget hold up until then?

Parliamentary constituencies

Private Members’ Bills will return to the Commons on Friday, leading with the second reading of Labour MP Afzal Khan’s bill on parliamentary constituencies, which will seek to maintain the existing number of 650 MPs.

Speaking to The House, Khan says: “Parliamentary constituencies are the building blocks of our democracy. It is essential they are drawn in a way that is representative, fair, and not party political. The attempt to reduce the number of MPs to 600 has politicised this process. My Private Members Bill seeks to get us out of this mess, and retain the 650 MPs we have at the moment. Since 2015 we’ve seen two million people added to the electoral register. My bill would ensure that they are included in the new boundary review, so their voices can be properly represented in parliament.”

There follows Tory MP Maria Caulfield’s bill on prisons (interference with wireless telegraphy), and a slew of bills from Conservative backbencher Christopher Chope.

Committee corridor

Another relatively quiet week over on committee corridor. Business Minister Claire Perry will appear before the BEIS committee at 10 on Tuesday morning, with her Tory colleague and FASC chair Tom Tugendhat speaking to the Defence committee an hour later. Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan will speak to Tugendhat’s committee at 2.45 that afternoon. Frontbencher Chloe Smith will speak to the Northern Ireland Affairs team at 9.30 Wednesday morning and Sir Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, will talk government borrowing with the Public Accounts committee at 2.30.

Westminster Hall

Highlights in Westminster Hall include Tuesday’s debates on Dr Elsie Inglis and the contribution of women to World War One (9.30), led by Labour MP Ian Murray, and his colleague Roberta Blackman-Woods’ debate on the Rohingya crisis in the afternoon (2.30). Tory MP Mark Harper has a debate on Wednesday morning on the effect of the Government’s migration policy on the economy (9.30), followed by the SNP’s Douglas Chapman leading a discussion on the appointment of an Arctic ambassador.