Week ahead in committees

There's a rather bread and butter flavour about this week's Committee Corridor action, with a lot of sessions on issues with real voter interest.

Top of the list is Tuesday's Energy and Climate Change session with the big energy companies - who can expect a serious duffing-up after their latest price increase, but who can also expect attempts to draw them into approving or rejecting the parties' various ideas for cutting prices.

And the party dimension of the energy row will continue later in the week at the Environmental Audit Committee.

Meanwhile there are sessions on keeping the roads open when winter closes in, and into child safety on the internet, and child protection by social service.

And expect a bit more blue on yellow (un)friendly fire at the public bill committee on the Immigration Bill. Here's my rundown of the week ahead:


The Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) has its annual session on the HMRC Annual Report and Accounts - these are anything but chummy routine occasions. Evidence will be heard from HMRC officials.

As winter closes in, the Transport Committee (4.05pm) begins a new inquiry into winter resilience in transport - keeping the airports open, the roads clear and the trains and buses running - or at least keeping travellers informed when extreme weather strikes.

The committee will look at who takes responsibility for what, and at whether enough is being invested in precautionary measures.

They'll quiz witnesses from Heathrow Airport, British Airways, Gatwick Airport and the British Air Transport Association; then local government officials, the Highways Agency and, finally, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill MP,

The Communities and Local Government Committee (4.15pm) launches a new inquiry into local government procurement - what are the implications of increasing outsourcing of council services for employment terms and conditions?

Is local government delivering good value for money and meeting the objectives of local communities - an assortment of officials and trade unionists give their views.


I don't normally highlight public bill committees, but the committee scrutinising the Immigration Bill could provide the stage for a bit of intra-coalition drama.

It has two meetings today, with the first at 8.55am to hear evidence from a series of academics and pressure groups, including the BMA, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, and MigrationWatch UK (until no later than 11.25am).

In their afternoon session from 2pm they will hear from the National Landlords Association, the Residential Landlords Association, and UK Association of Lettings Agents followed by Crisis, the Association of British Insurers and Universities UK.

With domestic energy bills rocketing, the Energy and Climate Change Committee (2.30pm) takes what it is rather dryly describing as "follow-up evidence... in the context of the latest wave of price increases" from the bosses of the big six energy companies - probably in two panels, plus Andrew Wright, the Interim CEO of the industry regulator Ofgem, at about 4.30pm.

This will be the first major public test of the stand-in committee chair, the Lib Dem Sir Robert Smith, who took over when the Conservative Tim Yeo stood down.

Expect questions on transparency, the lack of competition in the market and fat cat salaries.

The Committee's recent report on Energy Prices, Profits and Poverty can be found here.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (9.30am) looks at what can be done to rescue declining shopping with evidence from Bill Grimsey author of the Grimsey Review; followed by BIS minister Michael Fallon and Brandon Lewis, the minister tasked with saving the high street, at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Campaigning MP Stella Creasy gives evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in its Online Safety inquiry (10:30am) followed by the Internet Service Providers Association, TalkTalk, and the Mobile Broadband Group.

And the Health Committee (2.30pm) continues its investigation of the management of long-term conditions - a key issue for the future of the NHS, with a series of medical experts.

GM foods, badgers and charging for carrier bags are all likely to feature when the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2.30pm) talks to DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson about his latest Departmental Annual Report 2012-13.

After that, he remains in his seat to be quizzed about the implementation of the new-look Common Agricultural Policy.

Matt Baggott, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (2.30pm) to deliver an update on the security situation and the Home Affairs Committee (3.30pm) takes evidence on Tobacco Smuggling.


The Work and Pensions Committee (9.30am) continues its marathon scrutiny effort into Iain Duncan Smith's flagship welfare reforms with another session on the role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system.

There will be evidence from the CBI, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and the rather exotic-sounding Monster Government Solutions, designers of the Universal Jobmatch vacancy system.

The session will focus on the effectiveness of JCP's engagement with local and national employers and recruiters; the effectiveness of Universal Jobmatch and possible improvements.

The Education Committee (9.30am) holds a one off session to follow up its report into child protection, with evidence from Eileen Munro, professor of social policy at the LSE, Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, and Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children and families at the Department for Education.

And it's back to the costs and benefits of green energy when the Environmental Audit Committee (2.15pm) hears from Michael Fallon who is "double-hatted" as a BIS and Energy Minister about energy subsidies in the UK.

Since green Tory Zac Goldsmith is a member of the committee, and he has already tweeted his fury at the talk of a government retreat from green subsidies, green and blue sparks may fly.


The Immigration Bill Committee reconvenes (8.55am) to hear evidence from JUSTICE and Liberty (I assume these are the pressure groups rather than anthropomorphic personifications of the virtues, but you never know) and then they hear from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

It's anoraks on at the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (10am) which has a session on the impact of Queen's and Prince's Consent on the legislative process.

This is one for the constitutionalist hard core, although the two high priests of parliament, Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the House and David Beamish, Clerk of the Parliaments; plus the First Parliamentary Counsel, Richard Heaton, usually make entertaining witnesses.