Week ahead in committees

There's plenty of good Committee action this week - my pick is the Business Committee's Wednesday session with the bankers who advised on the Royal Mail privatisation.

Did they lowball the price?

This session will preface a visitation by Vince Cable next week


As part of a visit to Sheffield, the Communities and Local Government Committee holds the fourth session of its inquiry into local government procurement.

The committee will hear from local area representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses, Chambers of Commerce and the third sector, and from representatives of Sheffield City Council (1.45pm, Sheffield Town Hall).

The Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) looks at Maternity Services in England after this National Audit Office report found wide variations in quality and safety, cost and efficiency between NHS trusts in England.

Chief medics join Una O'Brien, permanent secretary, Department of Health and Sir David Nicholson.

The Transport Committee (4.05pm) continues its look at the Government's maritime strategy, with evidence from Maritime UK, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the RMT, Nautilus International, the UK Maritime Pilots Association and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

And the Science and Technology Committee (4.15pm) quizzes Universities and Science Minister David Willetts on the retention of women in academic careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).


The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (9.30am) holds the first session of its inquiry into the extractive industries - mining.

The inquiry is examining both extractive companies active in the UK and the impact of the UK being a centre for the listing of extractive companies with businesses overseas.

In this first session, it hears from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initative which describes itself as "a global coalition of governments, companies and civil society working together to improve openness and accountable management of revenues from natural resources" and witnesses from extractive companies active in the UK, including the Mining Association of the UK, the CBI Minerals Group, Oil and Gas UK, and UK Coal.

The ONS and National Crime Survey appear to give different pictures to what is happening to crime rates in this country, and as part of its series of inquiries into the use of national statistics, the Public Administration Committee (9.30am) is holding several evidence sessions into how crime statistics are produced and used.

They will hear from the Police and Crime Commissioners for Kent, Essex and Nottinghamshire, and from former senior police officers and the Police Federation.

The Treasury Committee (10am) continues its probe into the reasons for the collapse of Project Verde, the Co-operative Bank's abortive attempt to buy hundreds of branches from the state-owned Lloyds Bank, and pole-vault into the front rank of high street bankers in the process.

A series of rumbustious evidence sessions with Co-Op officials have increasingly focussed on governance issues within the Co-Op itself, and raised questions about how viable the Co-Op's management model is in the 21st century financial market.

David Anderson, the former chief executive of Co-operative Financial Services, is the latest witness, and the committee seems increasingly likely to deliver a withering verdict on the way the bank was run.

The Culture Media and Sport Committee (11.30am) calls in Twitter and Facebook after distressing reports over the summer of a teenager who killed herself after being bullied online and vicious "trolling" campaigns against mourning relatives, or in one case Labour MP Stella Creasy, after she came out in support of another victim of trolling.

And the Foreign Affairs Committee (2.30pm) looks at government foreign policy towards the United States with Sir Nigel Sheinwald , who handed out the Ferrero Rocher for Britain in the Washington Embassy from 2007-12.

The Health Committee takes evidence on the role and efficacy of Public Health England from its four most senior officials (2.30pm).

With new artificial drugs appearing on the streets at an increasing rate, the Home Affairs Committee (2.45pm) are following-up to their drugs report by looking at new psychoactive substances.

Has the UK got better at identifying and restricting their supply?

Witnesses include Rosanna O'Connor, director of delivery at the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, the Angelus Foundation which aims to highlight the dangers of legal highs and Dan Reed, director of the Channel 4 documentary, Legally High: True Stories.


Is the government prepared for a future of driverless cars, robots and superbugs?

Various "futures" analysts give evidence to Science and Technology Committee (9.15pm) plus experts on computational legal theory, intelligent transport systems and mobile robotics.

Was Royal Mail undervalued?

Ahead of Secretary of State Vince Cable's appearance on 27 November, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (9.30am) hears from the banks which provided valuations of Royal Mail prior to privatisation - JP Morgan, Citibank, Panmure Gordon, Deutsche Bank, UBS, and Goldman Sachs.

And the week before Ofsted goes in to measure progress in improving Birmingham City Council's troubled child protection operation, the Education Committee (9.30am) questions the Families Minister, Edward Timpson.

In the final session of its inquiry into Jobcentre Plus, newly-minted Employment Minister Esther McVey gives evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee (9.30am) on the new look centres which are the centrepiece of the Government's efforts to get unemployed people into work.

Are big contractors exploiting a naïve government?

Serco, G4S and Atos give evidence to Public Accounts Committee (2.15pm) on the delivery of public services by private contractors.

The National Audit Office has recently pointed to a crisis of confidence caused by some contractors not appearing to treat the public sector fairly and by some government departments fumbling key contracts.

Meanwhile, the Health Committee (2pm) returns to a favourite subject: public spending on health and social care.

Witnesses include The Kings Fund, The Nuffield Trust and the NHS confederation.

What can the government do to help increase the flow of finance to small and community-based renewable energy and green projects?

The Environmental Audit Committee (2.15pm) hear from Pure + Leapfrog, Tridos Bank, Energy for All, and Wey Valley energy co-operatives as part of its inquiry into green finance.

And over at the Scottish Affairs Committee (2.30pm), the new Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, makes his third appearance in as many weeks to discuss the constitutional and legal issues being dealt with by the Scotland Office with the independence referendum (or "separation", to use the committee's preferred term) less than a year away.

Fellow Lib Dem minister Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the Advocate General for Scotland will also be there.


The separation of powers is a core principle of any democracy, but it is not always 100% clear exactly where the boundaries lie, as was evidenced by last year's Leveson inquiry into regulation of the press.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee investigates the role of the judiciary in our democracy, starting with academic experts (10am).

The Scottish Affairs Committee (2pm) journeys to Cardiff to learn about the Welsh Assembly's handling of blacklisting in employment - a subject it has studied exhaustively.

Interestingly it's promised that the session will be followed by a statement from the committee.