Week ahead

 

The big event of the week is the visit of the heroine of Burmese democracy Aung San Suu Kyi, who will address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.

Normally, only a head of state would be given this particular honour, but the rules have been stretched to honour her long struggle.

Elsewhere, both Houses are rather easing into the new legislative round, with the Lords, in particular, slightly twiddling its thumbs, as peers wait for the really big bills to clear the Commons.

On Monday the Commons convenes at 2.30pm for Education Questions. MPs will then turn to the detail of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill. This is more controversial than it sounds, because Labour are deeply suspicious of the government's plans to switch to individual voter registration - which requires every voter to register themselves, rather than having the head of a household register everyone under their roof.

On the committee corridor, business is light. The Communities and Local Government Committee (at 4.15pm) continues its examination of the pros and cons of letting council staff form co-operatives to deliver local services. Witnesses this week include two councils already well down this pathway. And the Public Administration Committee (at 4.30pm) hears Francis Maude, the minister in charge of machinery of government issues in the Cabinet Office, and Sue Gray, director of its Propriety and Ethics Team, as it pursues its inquiry into ministerial Special advisers.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) the main business is the committee stage scrutiny of the Crime and Courts Bill, which abolishes the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency, and sets up the National Crime Agency. That's followed by a short debate on promoting the Access to Work mental health support service, led by the Liberal Democrat Lady Thomas.

On Tuesday, the Commons opens (at 2.30pm) with questions to Foreign Secretary William Hague before MPs consider a motion on the application of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights - this is the article covering the right to a family life, which, controversially, has been used to quash deportation orders. That is followed by a debate on financial services market abuse.

In Westminster Hall there will be a series of short debates without votes on: Armed Forces Day; cancer treatments and the NHS outcomes framework; crisis loan funding; future fund for public sector pensions and Employment and Support Allowance for people with Parkinson's disease.

It's a very busy day for the select committees: the Treasury Committee (at 10am) has a session on Corporate Governance and Remuneration in systemically important financial institutions - witnesses are umbrella groups for different kinds of institution - pension funds, insurers, etc. The Transport Committee (at 10.05am) opens the evidence for Rail 2020, its inquiry looking at reform of the railways with senior industry and Trade Union figures.

Should the new energy bill set an ambitious target for decarbonising our electricity sector by 2030, as the statutory Committee on Climate Change recommends? The Energy and Climate Change Committee continues pre-legislative scrutiny on the government's electricity market reform legislation with evidence from David Kennedy, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, plus various energy academics (at 10.15am); followed by Climate Change Capital, Low Carbon Finance Group, the Renewable Energy Association and Renewable UK.

And the Justice Committee (at 10.30) looks at youth justice with evidence from pressure groups and former young offenders. On a not dissimilar theme, the Home Affairs Committee (at noon) will look at changes to rules governing anti-social behaviour, quizzing senior officers from Leicestershire police. Before that (at 11am) they hear from Professor David Nutt, who was sacked by Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson for his public opposition to the government's decision to classify cannabis as a Class B drug. Prof Nutt is now on the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. He is joined by Dr Les King, former ACMD member and former head of Drugs Intelligence Unit.

One of the biggest policy questions for this Parliament is how to pay for long term social care. While the government prepares a white paper, the Health Committee (at 10.30am) follows up its recent report into social care with further evidence sessions on the thorny question of finding the money to pay for it. Witnesses this week include the Kings Fund, LSE, Saga and Nuffield Trust.

Finally, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee holds a valedictory session with outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson at 10.30am too.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) peers get their first look at the Justice and Security Bill, which reforms the oversight of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters, allows closed hearings in relation to certain civil proceedings and bans certain court orders for the disclosure of sensitive information.

On Wednesday, the Commons opens for business at 11.30am, with questions to the Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore. He normally enjoys a fairly supportive House, as Labour and the Conservatives train their guns on the SNP, but as the first Lib Dem cabinet minister up for questions since the Jeremy Hunt vote, he might have a rougher ride than usual. Then there's Prime Minister's Questions.

Before MPs move on to their main business, there's the formal presentation of this year's crop of private members' bills. Most of the 20 MPs who topped this year's ballot have now chose their subject - and the bills range from Antarctic pollution (Neil Carmicheal) to withdrawal from the EU (Douglas Carswell).

Then the House moves on to two Labour-led debates - and one, on disability benefits and social care, has already been announced.

It's a busy committee day. The Science and Technology Committee continues its inquiry into the difficulties in commercialising scientific research, which rejoices in the exotic title of "Bridging the Valley of Death". This week they hear from Sir Peter Williams of the National Physical Laboratory, and venture capitalist Sir David Cooksey.

The Work and Pensions Committee (at 9.30am) holds a pre-appointment hearing with Paul Gray, the government's nominee for chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee. With sweeping changes to the system under way, as the government introduces its Universal Credit, the Committee will be one of the few bodies capable of providing detailed technical scrutiny of the myriad new rules and guidelines which will be published - so this appointment matters rather a lot.

The Education Committee (at 9.30am) holds a one-off session looking at the system for children with special educational needs. Witnesses include leading practitioners, academic specialists and Minister of State for Children and Families Sarah Teather.

Former cabinet ministers David Blunkett and Lord (Norman) Fowler will give evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee (at 10.30am) on the accountability of civil servants, followed immediately by Jack Straw's former Special Advisor Mark Davies, and Hazel Blears' former SpAd Paul Richards. Controversial territory at the moment.

The Scottish Affairs Committee (at 2.30pm) continues its inquiry into the implications of Scottish independence - which they make a point of calling "separation". Their hearings on the defence issues it would raise have already made some waves. Witnesses have warned the committee that Scottish shipbuilding would be "finished" in a separate Scotland, because the remaining UK would not build warships there. Today, the committee will question witnesses on possible defence strategies that could be adopted by a separate Scotland and what the likely implications of separation would be for the Scottish defence industry as a whole.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee's short inquiry into the recent decision by EU inspectors to ban the use and sale of UK de-sinewed meat concludes with evidence from the public health minister Anne Milton. The committee chair, Anne McIntosh, called for the abolition of the Food Standards Authority in the evidence session last week. The grilling she is likely to give DEFRA minister James Paice on this topic, when he appears next week, might be well worth watching too.

In the Lords, (at 3pm) question time includes the Conservative, Lord Vinson, asking if the UK will opt out of the extension the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction to crime and policing laws. The peers move on to detailed Committee Stage scrutiny of the Crime and Courts Bill - and debate on the EU Data Protection Directive.

Thursday's proceedings are a bit unusual - MPs start early, at 9.30am, to allow them to convene in Westminster Hall in the afternoon, to hear the leader of the democratic movement in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. Before that it's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions, and a mixed bag of questions to the MPs who speak for the Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission.

The Leader of the House, Sir George Young, will announce forthcoming Commons business, and his Labour shadow Angela Eagle will make a number of sardonic suggestions for debates on the failings of the government, which Sir George will gracefully decline to allow. The exchanges are becoming a bit mannered and rather pointless, but I suppose it lets off some steam. Then there are two backbench motions - the first on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, and the second on the mis-selling of interest rates swap products to small businesses.

On the committee corridor one of the Lords EU Sub Committees will quiz Foreign Office and International Development officials about piracy in the seas around Somalia (at 9.30am) and the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (at 10am) continues its inquiry into the quality of legislation.

The Lords convene at 11am - and merely break off at 2pm, for the Aung San Suu Kyi speech, to resume 15 minutes after its conclusion. Watch out for an intriguing inquiry from Lord Addington at question time. He asks the Leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde, for his assessment of "current standards of behaviour in the House". Oh dear, are peers going the way of the Commons?

Then there are two debates led by Lib Dem peers - Lady Scott of Needham Market focuses on the role of the voluntary sector and social enterprise and Lady Kramer ponders the government's growth strategy for the UK economy.

Neither House sits on Friday.

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

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