Viewing guide: The week ahead at Parliament
No sooner had the Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, announced what MPs would be discussing next week, than it became clear that the programme might be substantially re-jigged to accommodate an emergency bill to sort out the law on Police bail, after a High Court ruling. (see post below).
So, much of what follows may be subject to change… particularly the main business in the Commons - although given that Sir George didn't outline a provisional programme for the following week, maybe the Government is planning to put through the emergency bill then.
It will be a pretty meaty week in both Houses, whenever that bill surfaces:
Monday in the Commons opens with Defence Questions - before MPs embark on two days polishing off the Report and Third Reading stages of the Finance Bill - which enacts the tax rates and other changes set out in the Budget. Incidentally, it was a continual complaint in the last parliament that too little time was allocated to Report Stage debates on bills - when MPs get to consider any changes made as a result of the Committee Stage. The Coalition deserves a bit of credit for its habit of allocating at least two days for "remaining stages" consideration of most bills - which shows a welcome measure of respect for proper parliamentary process.
There's some interesting action in the Select Committees, where Lady Neville Jones, who quit as the Government's National Security Advisor, appears before the joint committee on the National Security Strategy - the secret squirrel of the select committee world. It's a new body which didn't really get into its stride after being set up by Gordon Brown - its task is to scrutinise the strategy which is supposed to pervade the work of Government, and it may be that Lady Neville Jones, whose departure from the Government was not entirely without acrimony, will have some pungent thoughts to pass on.
Elsewhere Communities and Local Government Ministers Grant Shapps and Andrew Stunnell will be giving evidence on regeneration policies to their departmental committee. The DCLG is not seen as one of the more harmonious redoubts of the Coalition, so it will be interesting to see if the two ministers manage to sing from the same hymnal. And the Science and Technology Committee continues its investigation into practical experiments in school science, and science field trips, with the Education Minister Nick Gibb the star witness.
In the Lords, Peers continue their detailed Report Stage trawl through the much-mangled Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill - and when they break for dinner there's a Draft Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 order to consider, on the extension of duration of non-jury trials. A Lords Committee to watch is the Lords Internal Market, Energy and Transport EU Sub-Committee, where Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, will talk about the European Rail Market and the Role of the Channel Tunnel. Issues likely to arise include whether ticket-buying can be made simpler for connecting journeys further into Europe.
Tuesday is Clegg-bashing day in the Commons as the Deputy Prime Minister (and then the Attorney General) take questions. That's followed by the conclusion of the Finance Bill (see above).
Major cabinet ministers will be thronging the Committee Corridor: the Home Affairs Committee will be questioning the Home Secretary, Teresa May, about her first year in office. The focus will be on immigration, policing and counter-terrorism, with Committee Chair Keith Vaz promising to ask why someone who is banned from the UK is able to enter unnoticed, and why it has taken the Home Office six weeks to decide it needed emergency bail legislation (see earlier blogpost).
A few doors down the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson canter through the latest incarnation of the much amended Health and Social Care Bill at the Health Committee. Expect a mixture of high policy and low politics. There will be less excitement at the Treasury Committee, where the Chancellor, George Osborne will be discussing the accountability of the Bank of England. One for the wonks.
Elsewhere, the Business Minister Ed Davey rounds off the Business Innovation and Skills inquiry into the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill and the Archbishop of Burundi gives evidence to the International Development Committee on Fragile States.
In the Lords Peers continue their detailed debate on the Localism Bill - the Government bill to give people greater powers over their local councils. An emerging theme here is concern over the fairness of the mechanisms like local referendums proposed by the Government. Should there be spending limits in local referendum campaigns, to prevent wealthy interests from overwhelming local objections to some development, for example, with lavishly funded publicity? How will the signatories of petitions under the bill be verified as genuine, and so on.
Wednesday begins with Northern Ireland and Prime Minister's Questions, and then Conservative backbencher Mark Menzies had a ten minute rule bill proposing that local councils be allowed to vary the Sunday trading laws. The main business of the day are Estimates debates - devoted to two hard hitting select committee reports, on the Government's Prevent Strategy which aims to prevent violent extremism and on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As always on Wednesday there are plenty of select committee hearings: Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham rounds off the Foreign Affairs Committee's short, sharp look at the issues around piracy off the coast of Somalia, and military charity the SSAFA gives evidence to the Defence Committee on the Military Covenant. The Environmental Audit Committee has the minister Lord Henley before it, to explain why the UK is in breach of EU limits on air pollution and the Public Accounts Committee is looking at the control arrangements for fire services. A report from the financial watchdog, the NAO, said the project to replace the 46 Fire and Rescue Service's local control rooms across England with nine purpose-built regional control centres has been a comprehensive failure. At least £469 million will have been wasted, with no IT system delivered and eight of the nine new centres remain empty.
Finally, the Committee pondering the Draft Defamation Bill hears from top judges including Justice Tugendhat and the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuburger - there's some talk that the Editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop will be the star witness the following week.
Their Lordships take their first look at the Armed Forces Bill, which, as well as renewing the legal authority for the existence of the army, navy and air force, will give some legislative force to the Military Covenant.
On Thursday it's Energy and Climate Change questions in the Commons, where Secretary of State Chris Huhne can expect to endure much mockery from his critics on either side of the House. Then MPs turn to considering the many changes made to the Public Bodies Bill, the instrument for the Government's proposed cull of quangos - at issue may be the survival of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, one of the key issues on which the Government was defeated. There may also be a row over the sweeping powers granted to ministers in the bill and the proposed abolition of the office of Chief Coroner.
On the Committee Corridor the Business Innovation and Skills Committee returns to that perennial subject of committee inquiries, Pubcos - the companies that own and run chains of pubs. This is a follow-up session to see whether any notice has been taken of earlier committee recommendations about the way they should be run. And the Political and Constitutional Affairs Committee will be looking at the issues around moving towards a written UK constitution. Anoraks will be optional.
In the Lords, it's Day 6 of the detailed consideration of the Localism Bill.
Neither House is sitting on Friday.
Incidentally, it's worth watching out for some forthcoming reports. The National Audit Office is due to publish its thoughts on IPSA - the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the body which now controls MPs expenses, pay and conditions. There are plenty of furious critics of IPSA's performance in the Commons; will their complaints be vindicated?
The Defence Committee is due to publish a report rejoining in the bland title of Accounting in the Ministry of Defence. But given the parlous state of the MoD's finances, and the inability to establish the extent of its operating deficit to within tens of billions of pounds - this could be a pretty damning document.
This weekend the Work and Pensions Committee will give its verdict on the Government's proposed changes to the Child Maintenance Reforms. Given the controversy that has pervaded this whole area since the creation of the ill-fated Child Support Agency, this could be a pretty pungent offering.
And it's also worth reporting that the Transport Committee is re-opening its inquiry into the cost of motor insurance in the wake of Jack Straw's revelations about the conduct of personal injury lawyers, police and insurers. The former Justice Secretary is to be called as a witness.