Viewing guide: The pick of the week ahead in Parliament

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Viewing guide: The pick of the week ahead in Parliament

Post  Mr007 on Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:59 am

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* Democracy Live: Commons live stream (when sitting)
* Democracy Live: House of Lords live stream (when sitting)

It may be that this week's biggest excitement comes not from the scheduled business but from statements and urgent questions on the unfolding euro crisis.

The Commons opens for business at 2.30pm on Monday, with an hour of questions to Home Secretary Theresa May and her team. There will then be a statement from the prime minister (at about 3.30pm) on the outcome of the Cannes G20 summit - and whatever whacky developments have occurred in the euro financial crisis, since the last ministerial statement on Thursday. Watch out for questions and, later, points of order to the Speaker, on any move to increase Britain's subscription to the IMF - seen as a possible backdoor method of contributing to the bailout of stricken eurozone countries. If the government doesn't propose a vote Eurosceptic Tories may well try to bring the issue to the floor of the House, and intriguingly, there are suggestions that Labour might oppose the move, as well. Then MPs consider the vast numbers of amendments made by their lordships to the Localism Bill. Both Houses have to approve every bill in the same form before it can become an act - and plenty of controversy remains.

The big event on the committee corridor is the Public Accounts Committee's long-awaited follow-up session with David Hartnett, the HMRC official responsible for much-criticised tax settlements with Vodaphone and Goldman Sachs. Mr Hartnett's already had some rough handling from the committee, with some members calling for him to resign over the deals - and his previous evidence about his handling of the super-bankers Goldman Sachs will be raised today. Expect some comment about the difference between their treatment and that of small fry local businesses in MPs' constituencies.

In the Lords (from 3pm) the main business is day three of the committee stage of the Health and Social Care Bill - which is not expected to be one of the more controversial interludes. And there'll be a dinner break debate at around 7pm on budget cuts to secure children's homes and reducing re-offending rates

Tuesday in the Commons opens (at 2.30pm) with the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, and his team taking questions. That's followed by a ten minute rule bill from Labour MP Heidi Alexander suggesting that the police should be given powers to remove gang related videos from websites - she says the internet is being used spread gang culture and glamourise violence, and that the government is ignoring this aspect of the gang problem (I've interviewed her on this point for Friday's edition of Today in Parliament, on BBC Radio 4).

The chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman, will make a statement announcing the conclusions of the committee's latest report on HS2 - the proposed High Speed Rail link. In committee hearings MPs have sounded fairly unconvinced by the business case for HS2, and given the controversy around the whole issue, the committee's findings are bound to become a factor in the continuing debate on the plan. That is followed by a backbench debate around the findings of another Transport Committee report, on the cost of motor insurance. And the Commons day ends with an adjournment debate on the situation in Yemen led by Aden born Labour MP Keith Vaz.

It's a big day on the committee corridor, with the prime minister before the Commons Liaison Committee - the super-committee made up of select committee chairs. This session (starting at 4pm) is supposed to be devoted to "Big Society or Broken Society", but it may be impossible to avoid talking about the latest developments in the eurozone crisis, whatever they are, by then.

The Home Affairs Committee continues its post-riots inquiry into Policing Large Scale Disorders (at 11am) and then takes evidence from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on the National Crime Agency and Police IT. The upsurge in theft of railway signal cables is the subject of a Transport Committee evidence session - with the disruption to passengers and threats to safety under the spotlight. Witnesses include Dyan Crowther, the director for operational services at Network Rail, Ian Hetherington, the director general of the British metals recycling association - the scrap dealers umbrella group and Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther of the British Transport Police.

The Health Select Committee continues its look at social care, with key professional groups and the International Development Committee hears from the (Bill) Gates Foundation and a minister about the merits of private foundations in helping developing countries. And the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry into gambling turns to on-line gambling.

The Lords sit from 2.30pm, starting with a short debate on Procedure Committee Reports before moving on to their first debate on the Protection of Freedoms Bill - this can expect a rough ride after The Lords Constitution Committee criticised the new powers it gives ministers to change the basis on which law enforcement bodies can enter private property. Their latest report says the sweeping powers proposed which would enable ministers to get rid of any power of entry they consider unnecessary would also allow ministers to create more extensive powers of entry to homes and premises. They warn that, as drafted, the bill "does not strike an appropriate constitutional balance between the executive and Parliament". This committee's comments are taken very seriously by peers and several bills in recent years have run into trouble after coming in for criticism...

Wednesday begins (at 11.30am) with questions to the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and then the prime minister. Connoisseurs of political presentation should watch what's going on behind Mr Moore in the latter stages of Scottish questions - when various little helpers have allegedly been spotted packing the bench with women MPs to give the prime minister a more female-friendly backdrop... Brighton Conservative Simon Kirby has a ten-minute rule bill to give the police more powers to break up unauthorised travellers' encampments "with minimum delay". And that is followed by opposition-day debates on youth unemployment and jobs, and individual voter registration - a subject recently reported on by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, which warned that many eligible voters may drop off the electoral register under current plans to phase in the new system.

The adjournment debate - at 10pm - sees Labour's Martin Caton exploring the international prohibition of cluster munitions.

Topping the bill in committee land is the Communities and Local Government Committee hearing on the much-criticised National Planning Policy Framework. Amidst chatter about possible concessions to the many critics of the NPPF - the committee will question big beasts from the planning profession and then the Planning Minister, Greg Clark (from about 4.20pm).

Business Secretary Vince Cable is before the Business Committee (at 9.30am) for a session on his department's annual report - which means they can ask him about pretty much anything. And similarly the Work and Pensions Committee has a session with Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith on his department's Annual Report (also at 9.30am).

The Defence Committee (10.30am) has a fascinating-looking session on threats to the UK's electronic and IT infrastructure. Top experts, including an exotic-sounding MoD official billed as "Head of Cyber and Influence" (!) will be followed by Defence Minister Nick Harvey and Energy Minister Charles Hendry. Not to be outdone, the Science and Technology Committee will examine Malware and Cyber-crime with an impressive array of expert witnesses. The Education Committee has a session on attracting, training and retaining high-calibre teachers.

In the Lords (from 3pm) there will be another test of the diplomatic skills of the Health Minister Earl Howe, who has already been praised for having "perfect pitch" in his responses to worried peers over the Health and Social Care Bill - it's day four of committee consideration, and peers will be looking at the sections of the bill giving greater autonomy to the NHS grassroots. (See previous post on the H&SC Bill). This section of the bill is part of the behind the scenes talks to find compromise wordings on the powers of the Health Secretary - so expect a debate which explores issues and puts down markers, rather than one which culminates in actual votes. There's also the third reading of the Education Bill.

The dinner debate (at around 7pm) sees a swipe at wind farms when the Lib Dem Lord Thomas of Gresford raises the impact of "current and proposed wind farms and their supporting infrastructures" on the communities and landscape of mid Wales and Shropshire.

Thursday business in the Commons begins at 10.30am with transport questions - the first outing from new Secretary of State, Justine Greening. Expect questions on that select committee report on HS2 and on aviation policy. The minister's Putney constituency is directly under the Heathrow flight path - so she has a strong interest in how increased air traffic into London is accommodated.

The main debate in the Commons is on Armed Forces Personnel - and may also feature complaints from defence experts and defence select committee members that the Commons is not devoting sufficient attention to defence issues.

At 11am the Culture Committee continues its pursuit of the evidence it was given over the News of the World phone-hacking scandal - was the committee lied to in its inquiry in the last parliament? And if so by who? The witness today is James Murdoch - and given the custard pie attack on his father, Rupert, when he appeared before the committee in July, I'm told major new security precautions will be in force.

Elsewhere the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee will ponder the latest changes to the rules for royal succession, with the aid of top academics.

The armed forces will also be discussed in the Lords where the agenda includes debates on the sacrifice made by those in defence of the realm, the government's commitment to transparency and on an EU Committee report on grassroots sport.

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