Week ahead

It's half term week in Westminster, with MPs sitting only on Monday and Tuesday, and peers drawing stumps on Wednesday (they're all back again, the following Monday).

But there's the prospect of a bit of drama before that brief break.

Monday in the Commons begins (at 2.30pm) with Communities and Local Government Questions - and that is followed by two debates on Labour motions. The first is on the government response to the ash dieback; and the second on the cost of living - it's now emerged that Labour intend to make the government defend the scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty which could make life difficult for Tory backbenchers who've also be campaigning against it (see separate post).

Top of the bill on the committee corridor is the Public Accounts Committee's continuing investigation into the taxation of multinational corporations (at 3.15 pm) which has already produced some bruising sessions with the top officials at HM Revenue and Customs. The witnesses this time are: Matt Brittin, chief executive officer of Google UK; Troy Alstead, Starbucks global chief financial officer; Kris Engskov, the managing director of Starbucks UK and Andrew Cecil, director of public policy for Amazon. Committee members have already been pretty scathing about the mechanisms used by some big multinationals to minimise (quite legally) their tax bill.

There's a key session of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking (at 2.30pm) which is reporting on the professional standards and culture of the UK banking sector, taking account of regulatory and competition investigations into the Libor rate-setting process, and lessons to be learned about corporate governance, transparency and conflicts of interest. Their witness is John Vickers, who chaired the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), which made recommendations about how to prevent another credit crunch - including ring fencing of retail from investment banking, using the sale of branches of Lloyds Bank to boost competition and making it easier for customers switch current accounts.

The Transport Committee (at 4.05pm) investigates Rail 2020: the report by Sir Roy McNulty on improving efficiency in the rail industry, and the government's proposals for reform, fares and decentralisation. The witnesses include Anna Walker and Richard Price, of the Office of Rail Regulation, plus new Transport Minister Simon Burns MP.

And the high-powered super-committee on the National Security Strategy (at 4.30pm) takes evidence from the Home Secretary, Theresa May. They're expected to cover a range of national security issues including civil contingencies, cyber security, policing and terrorism. The committee expects to take evidence from the defence secretary on 5 December.

In the Lords (at 2.30pm), questions range across provision for public sector staff to serve in the Territorial Army, evidence that quantitative easing is working and obesity as a priority for primary GP care.

Peers will debate the new Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 before continuing consideration of the Financial Services Bill. One or two issues around the culture of banking and the City may be pushed to a vote. And there will be a short debate on university education and research in the arts, humanities and fundamental science, opened by Labour's Lord Wills.

On Tuesday, the Commons (at 11.30am) begins with Justice questions. Then MPs turn to a Ten Minute Rule Bill from the Democratic Unionist Dr William McCrea on suicide prevention. The main business of the day is a backbench debate on child sexual exploitation, led by Nicola Blackwood, Margot James and Ann Coffey.

In Westminster Hall - the Commons' parallel chamber - there will be a series of debates led by backbenchers.

First up, at 9.30am, is David Miliband's debate on the economy of the north east (he represents South Shields). This will focus on unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and it will be interesting to see if he has any innovative policy ideas to offer. Then (at 11am) Chris Bryant, who has been very active on the phone-hacking saga, has a debate on the prime minister's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. He has asked a series of parliamentary questions about the PM's contacts with his former spin doctor, Andy Coulson, since he left Downing Street, and the debate may draw on those, even if the answers have been dead bat responses.

And at 2.30pm, Fiona Bruce leads a debate on charitable registration and public benefit. She's one of several MPs who're concerned about the threat to strip charitable status from the Brethren - a Christian sect dating back to the 1820s - which, officials argue, may not deliver public benefit in return for charitable status.

The select committees, meanwhile, are still beavering industriously away - the International Development Committee (at 9.30am) hears from Secretary of State Justine Greening MP. The Health Committee (at 9.30am) concludes its evidence-taking on public expenditure - a sweeping inquiry covering the need for the NHS to deliver efficiency savings of 4% per year, in order to meet the rising demand for care. Issues raised include the long-term viability of some NHS Trusts and the efficiency with which the health services and local social services are delivering long term adult care. In a long day of evidence-taking, the committee starts with witnesses from hospital trusts, followed, at 10.15am, by Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, and at 3pm, by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, with a supporting cast of officials.

The Home Affairs Committee (at 2.15pm) looks at the work of the Independent Police Complaints Commission with Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Nazir Afzal the Chief Crown Prosecutor, North West Area. His presence gives an indication of the thrust of the inquiry, because he gave the go-ahead to prosecute the men accused of organised child abuse in Rochdale - which suggests the committee is interested in why the allegations had not been pursued before. Also giving evidence are Nick Hardwick, a former chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and Dame Anne Owers, the current chair.

In the Lords (from 2.30pm) subjects for question time include educating secondary school children about responsibilities of parenthood. Then peers turn to the third reading of the Civil Aviation Bill - and the government's spokesman Earl Attlee will be scrutinised closely to see if any contusions are visible after he remarked that his bill team would "probably kill me" when he accepted some amendments this week.

That's followed by committee stage debate on the Crime and Courts Bill, to consider new clauses on community punishment, which are expected to embody the new tougher approach promised by the incoming Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Expect extensive probing, particularly from the formidable contingent of lawyers and judges in the House. Then peers move to a short debate on proposed EU action to increase gender diversity on company boards - led by the Conservative Baroness O'Cathain.

By Wednesday, only the Lords will remain in Westminster. They kick off at 11am with questions on the UK's balance of trade with the EU and how the draft Energy Bill will deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, before starting work on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

The bill, among other things, creates the Green Investment Bank and the Competition and Markets Authority, while abolishing the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading. An extensive session in grand committee will follow, with nine days allocated, lasting into January. It could be pretty lively, with hot issues around employment rights, health and safety, and company mergers to be fought out; and the prospect of hostile amendments being put when the bill returns to the floor of the Lords for report stage.

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

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