Week ahead in committees

Next week's most serious and dramatic committee corridor event promises to be the evidence from Doreen Lawrence about the alleged police operation to discredit her and others campaigning about the 1993 murder of her son, Stephen.

She's been invited to speak to the Home Affairs Committee as part of their continuing inquiry into undercover policing, on Wednesday. The committee's session with Boris Johnson and Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on Tuesday should also be pretty interesting, ranging across the Lawrence revelations, Plebgate, and the Met's knowledge of hacking activities by private detectives working for law firms.

Meanwhile the Treasury Committee is probing the government's latest Spending Review, with Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander on Tuesday and the Chancellor George Osborne on Thursday. With the committee back at full throttle following the end of the Parliamentary Banking Commission, which had diverted the energies of its chair, Andrew Tyrie and other senior members, there could be an element of "we're back, and this time we're not taking any, er, nonsense" about these two hearings.

Otherwise, with the summer holidays just over the horizon, things are quietening down on the committee corridor, as the select committees polish off their reports in private drafting sessions, rather than gathering more evidence...

And some are going walkabout on fact finding missions: the Justice Committee, for example, is off to Texas to look at the Lone Star State's (slightly surprising) enthusiasm for community punishment as a replacement for prison.....

Here's the detailed rundown:


Is it law enforcement and congestion prevention, or is it revenue-raising? The Transport Committee (at 4.05pm) looks at Local Authority Parking Enforcement with an assortment of councillors and council officials - with Transport Minister Norman Baker on hand to give his verdict.

Over in the Lords the special committee looking at the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy (at 3.30pm) hears from witnesses including Baroness Campbell of Loughborough, chair of the Youth Sport Trust and former MP Andy Reed of the Sport and Recreation Alliance. And another special committee looking at Soft Power and the UK's Influence (at 4pm) hears from defence and Middle East experts.


The Treasury Committee (at 10am) sinks its collective teeth into the government's latest Spending Review, starting with evidence from Carl Emmerson and Gemma Tetlow of the tax and spend think-tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies; followed by the CBI's John Cridland and Professor Doug McWilliams from the TUC, with Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury delivering the coup de grace.

The MP's disciplinary watchdog, the Committee on Standards (10am), continues its inquiry into the activities of and rules around All Party Parliamentary Groups, with a couple of lobbying groups and Science and Technology Select Committee Chair Andrew Miller.

With a number of NHS scandals now brewing, the Health Committee (at 2.30pm) has a session on the work of the Professional Standards Authority, effectively the regulator for NHS regulators. The witnesses include the chair, Baroness Pitkeathley; the Chief Executive, Harry Cayton, and Rosalyn Hayles, the Director of Scrutiny and Quality.

The Boris and Hogan-Howe show comes to the Home Affairs Committee (at 2.45pm) with the Mayor due in the (metaphorical) witness box at about 4.15pm - it is, in fact, the first time he's appeared before them since his election in 2008, which is mildly surprising, given that he is in charge of the nation's biggest police force.

The formal subject of the inquiry, Policing in London, should allow the MPs to ask about pretty much anything that takes their fancy. The chair, Keith Vaz, commented that "public confidence in policing in London has been rocked by the devastating revelations that undercover police officers sought to gather information on the Lawrence family in the wake of Stephen Lawrence's murder. The Committee will ask the Commissioner at what level this decision was taken, and why this information was withheld from the subsequent Macpherson inquiry."

This is one of the multi-headed evidence sessions the Home Affairs Committee specialise in, and thus Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick and Commander Neil Basu also give evidence on the Met's assorted hacking investigations - Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta.

The committee will want to know how much longer they will drag on (after more than six years and £20m). And they may also get a counterblast to Rupert Murdoch's claim that the Met investigation has been "incompetent".

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has a one-off evidence session with the top brass of the telecoms regulator Ofcom (at 10.30am). They're expected to range across mobile policy and access to next generation devices, broadband services, call costs, pricing information and switching providers, licensing of TV and radio, public service broadcasting, online infringement of copyright and the Digital Economy Act 2010.

The Public Bill Committee on the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill is attracting more than the usual attention given to detailed scrutiny of legislation. It's first hearing (at 8.55am) hears evidence from several local authorities - the London Borough of Camden, Nottingham, Manchester and Staffordshire plus transport officials and planning experts.

And in an afternoon session (from 2pm) it hears from opponents of the scheme, including the HS2 Action Alliance, and Stop HS2, from local enterprise partnerships along the route and from the Country Land and Business Association, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Finally, across in the Lords (at 10.30am), Science and Universities Minister David Willetts is before the Science and Technology Committee, to talk about Scientific Infrastructure - whether UK laboratories can afford the kit and IT systems to conduct cutting edge research.

Late addition: the Foreign Affairs Committee (2.30pm) has its twice-yearly evidence session with William Hague and a supporting cast of officials.....it's likely to focus on UK policy in the wider Middle East, including Syria, Iran and Egypt.


It's déjà vu for David Willetts as he has his second appearance before a Science and Technology Committee in 24 hours - this time it's the Commons committee's inquiry into the work of the European and UK Space Agencies - which also hears from a series of UK officials.

And the Education Committee (at 9.30am) continues its look at the Foundation years and Sure Start children's centres, with more evidence from teachers, councillors and officials. It's the turn of academics and legal experts to give their thoughts to the special committee scrutinising the nasty legislative hot potato that is the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill (at 9.45am).

The Home Affairs Committee hearing with Doreen Lawrence (see above) is at 4pm.

The subject at the Public Accounts Committee (2.15pm) is the severance packages awarded to top BBC officials. This report by the National Audit Office commented that "The BBC has too often breached its own already generous policies on severance payments. Weak governance arrangements have led to payments that exceeded contractual requirements and put public trust at risk....The BBC's proposal to cap redundancy payments, announced in 2013 by the new Director General, is a signal of change for the better. It is well below the maximum that applies to civil servants."

The witness list is headed by the Director General, Tony Hall, and the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith wants to cut unemployment with a combination of a more flexible benefit system and more exacting requirements for unemployed people to find a job....and he's before the Work and Pensions Committee (at 9.30am) for a progress report on the preparations to implement the new Universal Credit.

A key issue will be the performance of the IT systems which link the benefits to any income people earn; the aim is to create a system flexible enough to cope if benefit claimants find some work, but still need some benefits.

The Environmental Audit Committee (at 2.25pm) ponders whether the government may be about to water down the UK's commitment to fighting climate change in a hearing with the gnomic title: Progress on Carbon Budgets. Climate Change Minister Greg Barker is the key witness.

What should the Army look like at the end of the decade? The Defence Committee (at 2.30pm) hears from Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, Commander Land Forces; Major General Kevin Abraham, Director General Army Reform and Major General Ranald Munro, Deputy Commander Land Forces (Reserves) on the subject of Future Army 2020. You can see the committee's consultation with the lower ranks, via the unofficial Army website ARRSE.

Over in the Lords that special committee on the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy (10.45am) focuses on the local legacy with councillors from Hackney and Waltham Forest


It's George Osborne's turn to talk about the government's Spending Review at the Treasury Committee (at 9.45am); while the Public Administration Committee (9.30am) vets the Preferred Candidate to take over as chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

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