Viewing guide: The week ahead at Parliament

Mark D'Arcy
Parliamentary correspondent

Published

Barring a surprise extension of the Commons term, this is MPs' last full week before their summer break - and many, still reeling from the excitements of the last few days, are looking forward to a little tranquillity. But the week's parliamentary schedule still affords plenty of opportunities to revisit the hacking scandal and maybe one or two non-hacking issues which used to loom large in political consciousness.

Monday opens with questions to the Education Secretary Michael Gove and his team, followed by a statement on the Open Public Services White Paper - this is the Government's attempt to reshape the public sector by allowing grass roots reconstruction of public services, part of the Cameroon Big Society. After that MPs will consider whether or not to accept amendments to the European Union Bill made in the House of Lords. The Bill is intended to set in place a "referendum lock" on transfers of sovereignty to the EU, but has been watered down by a number of Lords amendments on issues like a turnout threshold, and the addition of a "sunset clause". Expect to see an increasingly irritable Commons being asked to reverse all kinds of changes made to all kinds of bills by Their Lordships, in coming parliamentary weeks. It's not impossible that extended "ping-pong" between the two Houses may begin to sour MPs' attitudes towards the Upper House and reform thereof.

On the Committee Corridor, expect blood to flow at the Public Accounts Committee. They're considering the National Audit Office's withering report on the Government's decision to reshape the Navy's Carrier Strike programme - changes which will leave Britain without any aircraft carrier capability for nine years. Each week the PAC seems to discover a new "worst ever" government spending scandal. Will this be the next to receive that accolade?

And while the hacking saga may be a little outside its remit, I bet at least some members of the Draft Defamation Bill Committee won't resist the temptation to raise the subject when they question their next witness, Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop.

In the Lords, Peers will be continuing their Report Stage consideration of what's left of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. This could be the subject of the next big Lords-Commons scrap - because the Government is determined to reinstate the elected policing commissioners, which have been deleted from the bill by peers.

Tuesday in the Commons begins with questions to the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, with the Labour pack hounding a wounded minister whose signature legislation has been rewritten to defuse objections from the Lib Dems and the NHS professions. Conservative Sajid Javed will propose a ten minute rule bill designed to put an american-style legal ceiling on the UK's public debts. He'll argue that this will force governments to focus on controlling public spending, rather than forever increasing borrowing. Then the House will debate a valedictory motion praising the retiring Clerk of the Commons Sir Malcolm Jack. The motion signed by Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Dodds, Robertson, Ritchie and Llwyd - the party leaders, speaks of his "wise contribution to the development of the procedure of the House... and the courteous and helpful advice always give to individual hon. Members". Then it's the Public Bodies Bill - the bill to enable the promised bonfire of the quangos, which was heavily amended in the Lords - watch out for a row over whether the Government wants to reinstate plans to axe the Chief Coroner, and the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and other bodies which were earmarked for abolition, but reprieved by Their Lordships.

The Committee highlight will be the Home Affairs session with senior Met officers involved in the hacking inquiry at some stage or other - Andy Hayman and Peter Clarke and the current head of the inquiry DAC Sue Akers. After biting criticism of the inquiry in parliament and from the PM this should be riveting stuff.

Elsewhere on the Committee Corridor, the Health Committee launches its new inquiry into Public Health with a series of experts in the field. And the Transport Committee has supporters and opponents of the controversial HS2 (high speed rail) scheme. Witnesses include Jerry Marshall, Chairman of AGAHST (Action Groups Against High Speed Two).

In the Lords, it's peers' turn to rush through the emergency Police (Detention and Bail) Bill. There are some murmurs of resistance to speeding this onto the statute book - but with all party agreement behind it, Her Majesty should be signing it into law by dinner time.

On Wednesday it's more Lords amendments being considered by the Commons - this time on the Fixed Term parliaments Bill, which, again, was heavily amended in the Upper House. But before that there will be questions to the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, and then to David Cameron. This will be the last PMQs till September.

In committee land the Defence Committee are continuing their inquiry into the Military Covenant and the treatment of wounded service personnel. And the Public Accounts Committee will be pondering a subject close to the hearts of MPs - the effectiveness of their expenses overlord, IPSA based on a National Audit Office report, which wasn't quite the brutal takedown many MPs had hoped for. Guest of honour is Scott Woolveridge, IPSA's Interim Chief Executive and Accounting Officer. And the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan is before the Welsh Affairs Committee. The Scottish Affairs Committee talks to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and almost anything in his remit could come up - likely topics include the SNP's calls for extra powers in the Scotland Bill and a possible independence referendum.

The Lords have set aside time to consider the Commons verdict on their amendments to the European Union Bill (see Monday above) and the too-ing and fro-ing between the two houses could go on for quite some time. And they'll spend their spare time on the Police Reform etc Bill.

And so to Thursday: Vince Cable will be taking questions in the Commons, before MPs move on to the remaining stages of the Sovereign Grant Bill - dealing with the funding of the royal family.

There's a private meeting of the Culture Media and Sport committee - these are normally devoted to agreeing the text of reports but I suspect they will have plenty to talk about in addition. The Health Committee will meet Dr David Bennett, Chair and interim Chief Executive of Monitor the body designed to ensure fair competition to provide NHS services - a key part of the new NHS architecture in the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. And the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee continues its look at "Mapping the path to codifying - or not codifying - the UK's constitution," with Professor Guðmundur Hálfdánarson, University of Iceland - beamed in by videolink - and others. Intriguing.

And across in the Lords Peers will continue detailed scrutiny of the Localism Bill - so far plenty of "probing amendments," but serious attempts to re-write it may be held back until the Report Stage in the autumn, when there could be trouble.

On Friday only the Lords are sitting - peers will consider private members bills on Coinage, Live Music and the Rehabilitation of Offenders.

One item that's dropped off the agenda is the Report and Third Reading stages of the Energy Bill - the "green deal" which will allow people to fund energy saving home improvements from the savings to their gas and electricity bills. Simple in concept, complicated in execution - and now potentially delayed for some months. Which could have knock on implications for the Government's ambitious plans to cut energy demand and boost home energy production. The first casualty of the hitches now bedevilling the legislative programme.

In other Committee developments: watch out for the Business, innovation and Skills Committee's conclusions on the Government's strategy to promote exports. The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee is starting a new inquiry into the Government's proposals for Individual Electoral Registration. This dry sounding subject is in fact ultra-controversial, with Labour suspecting the switch as a way of driving its voters off electoral registers, while the Conservatives still complain that electoral fraud cost them dear at the last election. Already ministers are facing aggressive questioning about this scheme in the Commons - and this inquiry could develop into a bare-knuckle battle.