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Political Week Ahead - Christmas Comes Late To Westminster

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Parliament rises for the Christmas recess on Tuesday 20th December
Parliament rises for the Christmas recess on Tuesday 20th December

This week's preview of politics next week might seem a bit truncated given Parliament rises for the Christmas recess on Tuesday evening - and it won't be back until the 10th of January. But MPs are packing in quite a bit for their last two days at Westminster.

On Monday morning there are a slew of reports and ministerial statements, including Theresa May's publication of the UK Border Agency's annual report. Unfortunately for the home secretary, much of the report has already been leaked to the Sunday Times. This could well irritate the Speaker, John Bercow, who last week revealed that he "punished" George Osborne for leaks of last months' Autumn Statement by making the chancellor remain in the Commons to answer questions on it for several hours.

Again heavily trailed on Sunday is Nick Clegg's speech to Demos on Monday morning, where we know he will express dismay at the Tories' policy on giving a tax break to married couples. Excerpts of the speech suggest Clegg finds the policy something of a timewarp.

Politics geeks will be interested in the publication of a draft (that's DRAFT, not DAFT) Bill on Monday morning on Parliamentary Privilege - that's the ability of MPs and Peers to say more or less whatever they like within Parliament without getting sued. There have been calls for the ancient laws to be clarified after John Hemming used his privilege to reveal Ryan Giggs as the holder of a super-injunction, which caused a minor storm of controversy in May.

On Monday afternoon George Osborne will appear before MPs to respond to the Independent Commission on Banking's report. The so-called Vickers report was published in September, and called for the retail and investment arms of the big banks to be "ring-fenced" from each other to protect consumers. It's taken a while for the Treasury to digest the report, will the recommendations be accepted in full? Chances are we'll find out tomorrow morning when its response is leaked.

On Tuesday a fairly major piece of policy is to be published - the National Planning Policy Framework. Sounds tedious but chances are it will affect millions of people because it will reform the process of planning decisions, including the possibility of houses being built on greenbelt land and a large power station suddenly appearing at the end of your back garden. The government has long believed that the planning process gets too bogged down, and they've planned to do something about it.

And as a finale to the parliamentary term, Nick Clegg faces Deputy Prime Minister's questions on Tuesday morning. Expect panto season to come early as Labour MPs - and maybe a few Tories - finally have a chance to get their claws into Clegg after his sulking about Cameron's EU veto.

From Wednesday morning we're into political silly season, as exhausted MPs troop off to their constituencies. It's been a curious December in which polls have gone into switchback mode and Tory MPs got an early Christmas present in the form of an EU veto by David Cameron.

For Labour the festive period will involve a period of soul-searching. Their party remains broke, their leader Ed Miliband is enduring weekly castigation in the media for his PMQs performances, and now their lead in the polls has vanished, with some polls seeing Labour trailing. 2012 will be a make-or-break year for Ed Miliband, who goes into the new year with far more to prove than David Cameron.