The House returned on Tuesday and it has proved already an interesting week. Both Houses had the statement on the constitutional position of Scotland, accompanied by a consultation paper on a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom. There was notable cross-party unity on the subject. That was Tuesday. Then yesterday, we had the Welfare Reform Bill and four divisions on amendments, with the Goverment losing three of them by clear majorities. Most defeats attract little media interest, but given that these were on important provisions of the Bill, they attracted notable media coverage.
The discussion on a referendum in Scotland may have implications for the Scotland Bill, presently before the House. The changes to the Welfare Reform Bill will have to be considered by the Commons. The Lords is also still engrossed in other significant legislation, not least the Health and Social Care Bill and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (it was the second day in committee on Tuesday). The Protection of Freedoms Bill is being considered in Grand Committee. The Commons rises for one week in February, as does the Lords (though not the same week), and we are presently scheduled to rise on 29 March. It is going to be quite a busy time between now and Easter. Watch this space.