Week ahead in committees

Half the cabinet seem to be out and about on the committee corridor this week, not to mention even more powerful figures like Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

And there's some pretty serious politics to be fought out...

My pick of the week is the session on the Royal Mail privatisation with Vince Cable and Michael Fallon before the Business Committee, on Wednesday.


Should local councils be using their purchasing power to promote policies like encouraging apprenticeships?

The Communities and Local Government Committee (4.15pm) continues its look at local government procurement with witnesses from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and academic experts.

There's also a panel of witnesses (5.00pm) on supporting small and micro businesses.

The Transport Committee (4.05pm) kicks off its look at the Strategic Road Network following the recent Spending Review and the government's "Action for Roads" policy paper, with a focus on whether privatising the Highways Agency will deliver better standards or lead to more toll roads.

Witnesses include Professor Phil Goodwin of University College London, Alan Cook, non-executive director of the Highways Agency and Sir John Armitt, chairman of National Express Group.


With the bill to authorise the first stage of HS2 due to be published on Monday, the Transport Committee will be holding a one-off evidence session with the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and consultants KPMG to answer questions about the project.

The Treasury Committee discusses the Bank of England's November Inflation Report with governor Mark Carney and his supporting cast of Bank of England officials (10am) and the Joint Human Rights Committee has the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Chirs Grayling before it to discuss the issues raised for access to justice by the government's legal aid reforms (2.15pm).

Is the industry regulator doing enough to guarantee price transparency and competition in the energy market?

The Energy and Climate Change Committee (9.30am) - with Tim Yeo back in the chair after being cleared by the Commons Standards Committee - will be questioning Andrew Wright, interim CEO of OFGEM.

The Business Innovation and Science Committee (9:45am) will be looking at why mining companies whose activities are mostly abroad choose to base themselves in the UK.

The witness list includes the Financial Conduct Authority and (at 10.30am) Rio Tinto plc.

There may be a certain frisson at the Health Committee (2.30pm) for its annual accountability session for 2013 with the top brass at the NHS regulator, Monitor, after the committee's decision, earlier this year, not to endorse Dominic Dodd to take over as CEO - the reason Dr David Bennett currently serves as chair and chief executive.

The Home Affairs Committee (2.45pm) has a double headed session, first looking at the new elected police and crime commissioners - and their often fraught relationship with their chief constables progress to date - the witnesses include Ron Ball, Warwickshire PCC, Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire PCC, and Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester PCC and chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Then it's the turn of the Police - in the shape of (at 3.30pm) Sir Hugh Orde and Sir Peter Fahy, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and Colette Paul, the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police.

I do hope no disorder breaks out.

Next (4.15pm) newly appointed Lib Dem Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, will be quizzed on drugs policy.

Expect the issue of the new synthetic drugs coming onto the market to figure, and Home Office's plans to ban qat (see my week ahead at Westminster blog post) will probably come up...

Mr Baker sometimes shoots from the hip, so this could be worth watching.


Business Secretary Vince Cable will be defending the sale price of Royal Mail shares in the recent privatisation, alongside his Conservative deputy Michael Fallon (10.30am) following evidence from the banks which advised him, last week.

Did the taxpayer take a loss on the deal?

Is there a continuing but hidden risk of a further outbreak of vCJD?

The Science and Technology Committee holds a one-off evidence session (9.15am) on whether people who carry the proteins which can cause the disease are at risk - medical experts give their views.

The Education Committee (9.30am) continue their look at residential children's homes with police officers, social workers and other officials and the Work and pensions Committee hears from Minister Steve Webb about progress with changes to the child maintenance system (9.30am).

The Treasury Committee (2.15pm) has a one-off evidence session on EU financial regulation, with evidence from Dr Gerard Lyons, chief economic advisor to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. And the Public Accounts Committee (2.15pm) follows up on two of its favourite issues - court interpreter services and public sector severance payments

Over at the Lords end of the committee corridor, former leader of the House Lord Strathclyde, Labour's Lord Adonis and former Lib Dem whip Lord Shutt give their thoughts on the constitutional implications of coalition government.

Will Lord Strathclyde, in particular, lift the lid on the strains at the top of the coalition over Lords reform and Commons constituencies? (10.30am)


The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (10am) looks at the constitutional role of the judiciary, with a battery of academic experts.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee will ponder whether more gas storage capacity would smooth out price variations and keep consumer bills down (10.45am) and the Welsh Affairs Committee will continue its look at the potential for extracting shale gas in Wales - with fracking pioneer Cuadrilla, health and safety officials and the Welsh Government (2pm at the Welsh Assembly buildings in Cardiff).