Summer recess approaches

 

Three more days to go in a half-empty, MP-free Westminster, as their lordships totter towards their summer recess.

It doesn't look like a week of thrills and spills - just a lot of detailed committee work. Labour are on the alert for policy announcements made outside Parliament, so they can demand statements from ministers. The leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde, has already become rather tetchy on this subject, delivering a heavy put-down to Labour veteran Lord Barnett, when he complained about a variation on this theme (a government spokesman in the Lords unable to answer questions in the House, while another minister, elsewhere, was issuing a written statement on the same point).

And not content with wanting statements on new government initiatives, the Labour leader in the Lords, Lady Royall, wants the business minister, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, to come to the Chamber to explain:

"his involvement, if any, in the practices uncovered by a Senate Committee in the USA at HSBC, where he was a senior executive from 1982 to 2010, including being Chief Executive Officer and Group Chairman, 2006-2010, before being made a peer and being appointed by the Prime Minister as Minister of State for Trade and Investment"

HSBC has been accused in the US Senate of allowing money laundering by drug lords and rogue states. Lady Royall makes the point that, since he entered the House in November 2010, Lord Green has spoken there just five times - a debate, answering two oral questions, delivering one statement and speaking during one question for short debate.

She is demanding that Lord Green makes that statement to the House of Lords before the summer break, next week.

On Monday, peers begin with their usual half hour of questions. There's a mixed bag of subjects. Baroness Tonge, who lost the Lib Dem whip for comments about Israel, has a question on the health of children and pregnant women in Gaza. The Conservative, Lord Spicer, wants to know when the government will publish an aviation policy; and his colleague, Lady Gardner of Parkes will raise the need for a transparent scheme to protect money paid by leaseholders and held by managing agents. But my favourite of the week is on the government's plans (if any) to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of the Victorian explorer, David Livingstone - a question put by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, the former Scottish First Minister, I presume.

Then it's on to the final day of committee stage scrutiny of the Justice and Security Bill, which revamps the system for oversight of the security services and the handling of court cases dealing with sensitive intelligence or security matters. That is followed by a motion to approve proposed reforms to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

I don't normally have the space to mention the vast amount of detailed business the Lords deals with in Grand Committee - where they process a lot of orders and regulations made under existing legislation.

This is Monday's menu:

1. Draft Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) Regulations 2012 - Baroness Hanham

2. Draft Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012 - Baroness Hanham

3. Draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2012 - Lord Marland

4. Draft Electricity and Gas (Smart Meters Licensable Activity) Order 2012 - Lord Marland

5. Draft Electricity and Gas (Energy Company Obligation) Order 2012 - Lord Marland

6. Draft Green Deal (Qualifying Energy Improvements) Order 2012 - Lord Marland

7. Draft Green Deal Framework (Disclosure, Acknowledgment, Redress etc.) Regulations 2012- Lord Marland

8. Draft Green Deal (Energy Efficiency Improvements) Order 2012 - Lord Marland (5, 6, 7 and 8 expected to be debated together)

9. Draft Public Bodies (Abolition of the Commission for Rural Communities) Order 2012 - Lord Taylor of Holbeach

10. Draft Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements for Fourth Key Stage) (England) Order 2012 - Lord Hill of Oareford

Up on the committee corridor, Lords EU Committee-B, on Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment issues has a session (at 4.05pm) on women on boards - with evidence from Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% Club and Sonja Lokar, president of the European Women's Lobby.

On Tuesday, there's another multi-faceted question time. Former Labour Treasury Minister Lord Barnett asks about the government's new loan guarantee scheme, announced to his displeasure, in a written statement. The crossbencher, Lady Cox, wants ministers' assessment of the recent escalation of violence in Nigeria, and the former law lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, asks when the Chilcot committee's verdict on the admissibility of intercept evidence in court is expected.

That is followed by some short-sharp bouts of legislating: the third reading of the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill - the bill to ensure fair play between farmers and big buyers of their produce, like the supermarkets and the big dairy companies (* update: see below); then there's the second reading of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, which speeds up moves towards individual voter registration, replacing the system under which the head of household is responsible for registering voters under their roof.

The Lords select committee investigating adoption legislation meets at 10.15am to hear evidence from Martin Narey, the ministerial advisor on adoption; and Norman Goodwin, the chief executive of Adoption Matters Northwest. The committee is examining the working of adoption law in England and Wales.

Wednesday is the last day of term, and peers convene at 11am for question time. Labour's Lord Harrison will ask about the effective treatment of diabetes in minority ethnic communities, and the former defence minister, Lord Trefgarne, asks about the number of inmates in the Military Corrective Training Centre and the average percentage of inmates who are successfully returned to their units on completion of sentence. Finally, Labour's Lord Campbell-Savours wants to know the number of occasions since 2010, when officials of HM Treasury received reports and recommended action on the operation of the K2 offshore loan tax avoidance scheme, and on tax avoidance schemes generally.

Then it's on to the fifth day of committee stage debate on the Financial Services Bill - the measure to revamp the regulation of the City of London. And at lunchtime, while most peers snack, Justice Minister Lord McNally will open a short debate on two orders, on the Draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 and the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme 2012.

And then peers follow MPs off on their summer holidays. They return a bit later than the Commons, on Monday 8 October. MPs are back for their September sitting on Monday 3 September.

* A nice note from DEFRA points out that the bill is not focused just on farmers or big dairy companies, who are usually (but not always) in the middle of the supply chain. The bill is actually about big supermarkets, and their direct suppliers only. So the dispute over the price of milk would not come under the proposed adjudicator.

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

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