a. Summer Recess

The Coalition has shortened the House of Commons summer recess. The House usually returns from recess at the beginning of October, after the annual party conferences have taken place. This year the House of Commons will undertake business during two weeks in September before a further recess for the party conferences.

During this week, a number of important bill readings are due to take place, including the second readings of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill, and the third Reading of the Identity Documents Bill.

The House of Lords will remain in recess until 5 October.

b. The Committee on Lords Reform

The first edition of Coalition Watch focused on the Coalition's policy for reform of the second chamber. The Committee on Lords Reform will begin work in earnest when Parliament returns from the summer recess. The membership of the Committee has been taken from front bench members of the three main parties, both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Committee is to be chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. The Coalition intends that the first draft of the bill is to be ready by the end of 2010.

Our comment

Both items of news this week show a determination by the Coalition to get on with its reforms. According to Parliamentary records, this will be the first time that the House of Commons has returned from the summer recess in September since 2004. While the impending party conferences mean that the increase in Parliamentary time is not great, the Coalition will have eight days in which it will further the passage through Parliament of a number of important bills.

Debates in the House of Lords have queried the membership of the Committee on Lords Reform. The Coalition has not included cross bench peers, back bench members, or members outside the three main parties. The Committee has been predominantly chosen on the grounds of democratic and political legitimacy. Whether or not this membership will yield the most productive debate, the Coalition remains resolute that it is now looking at how an elected second chamber will function, not whether one is required. The remit of the Committee is to produce a Bill, and it has a limited period of time to do so.