Viewing guide: The pick of the week ahead in Parliament

 

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Refreshed by their short break, MPs and Peers return, teeth agleam, to the fray, next week.

It's rather a slow week in the Commons with general debates, backbench debates and opposition days, rather than heavy duty legislating. The Commons has sent most of its big bills on to the Lords, and will have little in the way of lawmaking to do until amended versions of those bills start being sent back for their perusal (although there are some promising-looking select committee sessions). But over in the Lords, Peers are wrestling with some very big bills indeed.

On Monday Commons business opens (at 2.30pm) with Education Questions - where extra entertainment can usually be found in the regular exchange of snarls and put-downs between the Education Secretary Michael Gove and the Speaker. That is followed by a debate on the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee - the group of massively senior and experienced parliamentarians who monitor the work of Britain's spooks. At the moment they're not a parliamentary committee as such, but one appointed by the Prime Minister. But the Government is proposing that they should become a proper select committee. Opening proceedings will be the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind - and subjects likely to be covered include security during the Olympics and the whole range of threats confronting the nation in the 21st century. Finally, senior Conservative backbencher Charles Walker leads a half-hour adjournment debate on access acute and crisis mental health care.

On the committee corridor, senior judges take the stand (metaphorically) at the special select committee investigating the law on privacy and injunctions (2.15pm). Having heard from injunction-breakers - bloggers - last week, it's the turn of injunction-makers. Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division (one area where everyone seems to agree granting privacy is justified), Mr Justice Baker, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Master of the Rolls and Mr Justice Tugendhat will put the case for the courts' power to limit freedom of speech.

The Communities and Local Government Committee launches its inquiry into the financing of housing supply at 4.30pm. Will the Government's radical reforms of housing benefit and subsidies to social housing tackle Britain's housing shortage? The witnesses include think tanks, pressure groups, house-builders and local government representatives.

Finally, the financial watchdogs of the Public Accounts Committee investigate the BBC Efficiency Programme. (3.30pm) The National Audit Office has already reported that the BBC has made great strides in continuing to improve its efficiency. Leading the Beeb's delegation is Mark Thompson, the Director General.

In the Lords the wily Lib Dem Deputy Leader of the House, Lord McNally, will open what promises to be prolonged hostilities over the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Yet another mega-bill facing determined opposition from several directions. There's a huge argument about the access to justice issues around cutting legal aid entitlements, so expect plenty from the lawyers and civil libertarians, there's another argument about sentencing rules that reduce judicial discretion - here come the judges - and the penal reformers will doubtless have plenty to say about dealing with offenders. Meanwhile the Welfare Reform Bill continues in Grand Committee.

On Tuesday the Commons opens at 2.30pm, with questions to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and his team, before moving on to a ten-minute rule bill from the Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, who wants to reduce the permitted level of blood alcohol for drivers. Then there's an Opposition Day debate on a motion (yet to be announced) from the Democratic Unionist Party. And that's followed by a debate on an EU document on Croatia and EU enlargement. These debates are held when the European Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Bill Cash, decides a particular EU document should be put before the whole House.

It's a very busy committee day - with the Home Affairs Committee setting the tone with a triple-headed session starting at 11am. They'll cover the policing of large scale disorders and the roots of violent radicalism - but the highlight will be a continuation of their investigation into UK border checks during the summer of 2011. Having heard from Brodie Clarke - the former boss of the UKBA and from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, the Committee will now grill Dame Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office (at about 12.15) and Damian Green, the immigration minister (from about 12.45). The committee has written to the Home Secretary asking for copies of six documents which are relevant to the case. And the Chairman, Keith Vaz says it "remains concerned by the contradictory information that it has received so far."

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee continues its investigation into gambling in the wake of the 2005 Gambling Act. Having visited a bookie, a bingo hall and a casino the previous evening they will hear from faith groups battling the effects of gambling addiction and groups studying the problem. The hearings start at 10.30 am

On a more morbid note, the Justice Committee will start its new inquiry into the presumption of death (10.30am). The legal declaration that a person is deceased in the absence of remains is the subject of a new inquiry. Pressure groups, lawyers and the Association of British Insurers will give evidence.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee holds its first evidence on a subject unfortunately close to home for many Britons: debt management - with academics, consumer advocates Money Advice Trust, Consumer Focus, Citizens Advice and Which?, as well as Martin Lewis of the Money Saving Expert website. The session takes place from 10.30am in Committee Room 20.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee looks at the issues around wave and tidal power in the UK with the Carbon Trust, Research Council UK, Technology Strategy Board and Energy Technologies Institute at 11.00.

How to pay for adult social care? The Health Committee will ask lawyers, insurers and equity release specialists in their latest inquiry. That's from 10.30.

And the Work and Pensions Committee forsakes Westminster to visit Neath, where they will hold an open meeting on plans to replace Disability Living Allowance with a new benefit, Personal Independence Payments. The new benefit has new criteria and assessments and the committee will be canvassing views from claimants and their carers and other interested parties. That's at 2-4pm, at Neath RFC.

In the Lords (starting at 2.30pm) it's the theoretical half way point in the committee stage of the Health and Social Care Bill (day 7 of 14) - but few peers seem to expect the 14 days allocated to be enough to deal with the amendments which have been raining down upon it.

On Wednesday the Commons begins (at 11.30) with questions to the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gilan before moving on to PMQs. Tudor historian turned Tory MP Chris Skidmore has a ten minute rule bill which would require MPs who switch parties to resign their seat and fight a by-election to secure the approval of their voters, if they want to remain in Parliament. That would overturn the ancient Commons convention that MPs are elected in their own right, not as party place-persons but it would also stop constituencies which thought they had elected someone with a particular point of view being lumbered with something they didn't vote for. I'd be surprised if this wasn't opposed - and it will be an interesting argument.

That's followed by an Opposition Day debate - on a motion yet to be announced. And proceedings end with Conservative Guy Opperman's adjournment debate on the Clinical and financial case for bowel cancer screening at the age of 50.

On the committee corridor, the Education Committee continues its look at how to attract top candidates to the teaching profession. Banking bosses from HSBC, RBS, Santander and Lloyds TSB appear before the Treasury Committee to discuss reform proposals from the Independent Commission on Banking at 2.15pm and the Scottish Affairs Committee (2.30pm) takes evidence on the role of the Crown Estate in Scotland - which covers the seas around the coast. Witnesses include the Scottish Islands Federation, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation and the Arran Seabed Trust.

More scrutiny of the hidden wiring of the Constitution as the Public Administration Committee quizzes 'GOD' - Sir Gus O'Donnell, the departing Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service on his role and the Government's proposed changes to it. Part valedictory and part chance to hear his thoughts on controversies like Adam Werrity's access to the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, and proposals for a register of lobbyists. One for the connoisseurs - from 3pm in Committee Room 21

And with the last major foot and mouth outbreak still a bitter memory in Wales, the Welsh Affairs Committee takes evidence from farmers on Government plans to close some veterinary science lab facilities in Wales - with the National Farmers Union Wales, Farmers Union Wales From 10.15am

Peers start work at 3pm and their main business will be debating the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill at Third Reading - and deciding whether to accept MPs amendments to the Public Bodies Bill. This is the bill that is supposed to enable a 'bonfire of the quangos' - expect rows over the Government's insistence on its plans to abolish the new office of Chief Coroner and the Youth Justice Board and Labour peers are also likely to sound off on the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies, given the latest unemployment figures.

On Thursday (from 10.30am) the Commons quizzes the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman and her team, plus MPs representing the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Electoral Commission. Then the Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young sets out the business in the Chamber of the coming two weeks and gets mobbed by MPs wanting all sorts of other subjects to be debated instead.

The main business is a backbench debate on UK manufacturing - combining concerns raised about the sector in general (by MPs Guy Opperman, Barry Sheerman, Gordon Birtwistle and Chris White) and about BAE Systems in particular, where heavyweights Alan Johnson and David Davis have a motion underlining the company's importance to the UK manufacturing base.

As yet, I'm not aware of any Commons select committee sessions. But a Lords EU Committee will be probing the military capabilities available to the EU - with European experts from France and Germany weighing in via video link.

In the Lords there are a series of short debates: Lord Sugar leads a debate on Government procurement policy, then there's a look at the Dilnot Commission report and the future of social care - led by Baroness Pitkeathley. And finally there's a mini debate on voluntary groups and local authority budget cuts - led by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

The last sitting Friday of 2011 (starting at 9.30am) will see debate on Private Members Bills - Chris White's Public Services Social Value Bill has its report stage, Phillip Hollobone has the second reading of his Taxation Freedom Day Bill and - if it is reached - Robert Halfon has the second reading of his BBC Licence Fee Payers (Voting Rights) Bill.

There are private members bills in the Lords as well from 10am - watch out for the European Union Membership (Economic Implications) Bill proposed by the former UKIP Leader, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Then there's the Human Trafficking (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill from Lord McColl of Dulwich, followed by the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill from Lord Stevenson of Coddenham.

 
Mark D'Arcy Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

Week ahead in the European Parliament

MEPs in Strasbourg are holding the first plenary session since the summer recess.

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 3.

    I have 1 correction, not everyone agrees to the assumed cloud of secrecy that stains the UK family court.
    I myself have been told:
    - That I am not allowed to discuss with anyone the proceedings of my case.
    - Evidence which would strongly support my case in court has been dismissed as rambling.
    - I have been precluded from obtaining a copy of evidence which has been submitted against me.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 2.

    - I have been told "because I am not legally trained, I am not entitled to all papers." (how can I thus represent myself adequately)
    - I have been told that "Litigants in Persons are at a disadvantage in court."
    - I have been told, "because I am mentally ill must follow what court officials tell me." (this is prior to any mental health assessment)

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1.

    Again the above did not occur in a court hosted within a banana republic. It was Guildford county Court and by 2 separate Circuit Judges.

    Additionally, if you think my anecdotal experience is a pack of lies, please read articles by Christopher Booker of the Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph. He repeatedly complains about the same cloud of secrecy. Apparently to absolutely no avail...

 
 

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