Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 16:40 UK

Back to business in Westminster

By Andrew Wilson
BBC Parliament

The Clock Tower housing Big Ben
A race against the clock as 11 bills are still to be approved by parliament

MPs and peers have returned from the summer recess with the tough prospect of 11 government bills still waiting to complete their passage through parliament.

At least four of the bills that have 'spilled-over' into this term are expected to prove controversial, with crucial votes likely on pre-charge detention, abortion, climate change and planning law.

If a bill does not make it to royal assent by the end of the session, constitutional custom has it that it must be re-introduced in the next parliamentary year.

Although, in recent times the government has been allowed to 'carry-over' some bills if approved by a vote in the Commons.

42-day detention

Peers will have have the chance to debate the Counter-Terrorism Bill when it reaches committee stage in the House of Lords on Thursday.

Other bills in the spill-over

Children and Young Persons Bill

Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill

Education and Skills Bill

Employment Bill

Energy Bill

Local Transport Bill

Pensions Bill

The upper house is widely expected to reject the government's proposals to extend pre-charge detention of suspected terrorists to 42 days.

If the government decides to push ahead with the measure, we could see a bout of parliamentary 'ping-pong' - as the bill travels back and forth between the Commons and the Lords until the differences of opinion are reconciled.

The bill applies to the whole of the UK.

Whipped votes on abortion

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill returns to the Commons in the next few weeks, after its report stage was postponed earlier in the year.

Controversial issues will be up for debate again, such as changing the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 22 weeks.

Labour backbench MP Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott MP wants the 1967 Act to apply in Northern Ireland

During recess, a cross-party group of MPs led by Labour backbencher Diane Abbott has tabled an amendment which would enact the original 1967 Abortion Act in Northern Ireland, where it has never been applied.

In Northern Ireland, women can only have abortions if the pregnancy has become life-threatening to the parent.

The third reading may also prove problematic for Catholic members of the government, as the votes will be whipped.

The bill could apply to the whole of the UK, since policy on fertilisation and embryology is not devolved - but MPs and peers may decide to leave the law in Northern Ireland unchanged.

Planning quango?

Opposition to the Planning Bill came from Labour rebels, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats alike when the bill came through the House of Commons last term.

Some MPs feel that the Infrastructure Planning Commission is another shift in power from local communities to an unelected quango.

There were not enough rebels in the Commons, but further amendments are expected in the House of Lords when the bill starts committee stage this afternoon.

Since planning policy is devolved, the bill would apply in England only.

Climate friendly

A backbench rebellion may have been avoided over the Climate Change Bill when it reaches third reading in the House of Commons in the next few weeks.

Gordon Brown has said he will support an increase in the target for cutting carbon emissions by 2050 from 60% to 80%, if the measure is recommended by the Climate Change Committee.

The government will still want to iron out several amendments that were made to the bill as it travelled through the House of Lords.

Westminster can legislate for England only on environmental policy because it is a devolved matter, but any pledges in this bill are likely to be matched by the devolved assemblies.

Cross-party support

Alistair Darling addressing the Labour Party Conference
The chancellor of the exchequer told conference the Banking Reform Bill would be brought forward

Although the Banking Reform Bill was expected to be held back until after the Queen's speech on 3 December, Alistair Darling told the Labour Party Conference he would bring the bill forward.

Opposition leader David Cameron has promised his party's full support, if the bill can be discussed as soon as possible.

The bill would give the Bank of England the power to lend money to banks suffering from cash-flow problems on a short-term basis without having to declare it publicly.

This would avoid a potential run on the bank, as occurred in the case of Northern Rock.

Banking regulation is not devolved, so the bill would apply to the whole of the UK.

Human rights concern over 42 days
01 Oct 08 |  Politics
Terror detention plans 'muddled'
05 Aug 08 |  Politics
Embryology bill delay criticised
10 Jul 08 |  Politics
NI Abortion Act campaign begins
09 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
Revolt grows over planning bill
29 May 08 |  Politics

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