- 14 September 2012
- From the section UK Politics
A two-day week next week, before MPs break for the party conference season.
The business in the Commons (their lordships are not sitting until October) is pretty humdrum, but there is plenty of activity on the committee corridor, and a number of important-looking committee reports are due to be published after the recess begins...
The Commons gathers on Monday (2.30pm) for Communities and local government questions. Normally the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, is the star turn, but this time we can expect some pointed questions to the new Planning Minister, Nick Boles, about possible moves to allow more development on green belt land. The new Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, and the senior Lib Dem, Don Foster, also make their debuts in their new ministerial roles.
That's followed (assuming no statements or urgent questions) by the second reading of the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill - which will allow the government to provide financial assistance of up to £50bn in support of infrastructure investment. The government would have to report to Parliament at the end of each financial year on any commitments made under the bill.
Finally, Labour's Steve Rotheram leads an adjournment debate on internet trolling.
On the committee corridor, the Scottish Affairs Committee is seeking to arrange a hearing with the Secretary of State, Michael Moore; it's not confirmed yet, but if it does take place, the gommittee will seek an update on the discussions between the Government and the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond on the terms and timing of the promised independence referendum.
The Public Accounts Committee (at 3.15pm) takes evidence on the handling of Northern Rock after it was nationalised during the Credit Crunch. A report by the National Audit Office found that the Treasury's 2009 decision to split Northern Rock in two was reasonable at the time but the final net cost to the taxpayer could be some £2bn. Top Treasury officials and Robin Budenberg, chairman of the arms-length holding company for nationalised banks, UKFI, give evidence.
At 4.30pm the Work and Pensions Committee quizzes the final witnesses in its inquiry on Universal Credit, the new social security benefit which replaces Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and other working-age benefits with one single payment. The inquiry is focusing on the implementation of the new system, which is a huge and complicated exercise. Answering the questions will be the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, and Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud.
And the Justice Committee (at 5pm) concludes its inquiry into EU Data Protection framework proposals with evidence from Justice Minister Lord McNally.
On Tuesday (at 11.30am) the Commons kicks off with Justice Questions - which will see the debut of new Secretary of State Chris Grayling and his new team, Damian Green, Helen Grant and Jeremy Wright. There's a ten minute rule bill on Signage and Ticketing Technology in Publicly-Available Car Parks, led by Labour's Nick Smith.
And then MPs turn to the pre-conference recess adjournment debate, which is an opportunity for MPs to speak on any issue they want to raise. Now, thanks to the Backbench Business Committee, what was once a pretty rambling affair is structured so that speaker are grouped into topics, and answered by a suitable minister - a far more effective use of Commons time. The adjournment debate is followed by, er, an adjournment debate on community funding for major infrastructure projects - led by the Conservative Ian Liddell-Grainger.
Meanwhile there are a number of promising-looking select committee hearings:
The Public Accounts Committee (at 10.15am) takes evidence on NHS Trust financial resilience. A National Audit Office reportfound that the NHS delivered a £2.1bn surplus in 2011-12 but that NHS trusts are carrying very large deficits. The witnesses include Una O'Brien, the permanent secretary at the Department of Health, and Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS in England.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will give evidence on" developments in UK foreign policy" to the Foreign Affairs Committee (at 10.30am); the Energy and Climate Change Committee (at 10.15am) continues its look at consumer engagement with energy markets with evidence from consumer groups and green groups and the Home Affairs Committee (at 11am) takes evidence on the work of the Border Force.
Meanwhile the Work and Pensions Committee publishes its report on youth unemployment and the youth contract, on Tuesday; and on Wednesday, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee reports on racism in football - and the Defence Committee will report on how the UK can keep a security watch over its own shores now that the maritime surveillance air capability has been removed.