Viewing guide: The week ahead in Parliament
Normally the final few parliamentary days before MPs and Peers head off to their Tuscan villas for the summer break are pretty low key and mundane.
Not this time. The prospect of select committee hearings with Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks plus with the top brass of the Met has electrified Westminster, and the relevant hearings of the Culture Media and Sport Committee and the Home Affairs Committee may struggle to meet the sky high expectations for drama and revelation. See below.
Today, Monday, the Commons kicks off with questions to the Work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and his team, before moving on to "motions relating to National Policy Statements. These are the policy guidelines for energy major national infrastructure issues, covering subjects like ports and airports. Once adopted they form the basis of planning decisions.
Then they approve the new Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner For England (Ombudsman to you and me).
The adjournment debate looks pretty promising too, despite the dry looking title. The Labour MP John Mann will be talking about Election Petitions. This should be fun because John Mann is a close political ally of Phil Woolas, the MP who was ousted from his Oldham East and Saddleworth seat last year, as a result of an election petition from his defeated Lib Dem rival. Expect some revisiting of that court battle and some pretty pungent comments on the whole petitions process.
On the Committee corridor, the parade of big media names giving evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill (ie updating the libel laws) continues. This week it's Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre and Times columnist Matthew Parris - preceded by Solicitor General (and former newspaper libel reader) Edward Garnier.
The Public Accounts Committee are back to their staple diet of embarrassments in defence procurement with a session on armoured vehicles based on this National Audit Office report, which concluded: "Too many major projects have been cancelled, suspended or delayed and the Armed Forces will not be fully equipped with the vehicles they need to carry out their full strategic remit until at least 2024-2025." And the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee looks at the future of Higher Education with the aid of the minister David Willetts and the Coalition's Access Advocate, Simon Hughes.
In the Lords it's ping-pong time. The Commons has rejected their amendments on the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill and pinged them back to see whether peers will "insist" on their amendments - the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler, a Crossbench (independent) peer has a motion down to that effect on the key amendment to require each new parliament to decide whether - in effect - it wants a fixed term.
If they do the Bill will be ponged back to the Commons and will continue to bounce back and forth until agreement is reached between the two houses. Expect a lot more of this… because peers are developing a habit of re-writing the Coalition's legislation. Between times there's the Finance Bill to keep them occupied, plus a report on it from the Lords Economic Affairs Committee. This shouldn't be all that exciting because peers are not allowed to amend finance bills - but you can't rule out a sardonic intervention from one of the many venerable ex-Chancellors in the upper house.
Tuesday was MPs' last day of term and the powers that be don't normally schedule anything wildly significant. But not this time. All eyes will be on the Culture Media and Sport Committee where Rupert and James Murdoch will give evidence between 2.30 and 3.30, to be followed by their ex employee, and Rebekah Brooks. The presence of one of the most powerful media moguls in history will make this a must watch session - and quite a test of nerve for the committee members. At the moment their stock is pretty high; they can't afford to be over-awed.
PS The Committee is clearly feeling a little beleaguered by helpful advice - they've just press released the following:
"The Committee recognises the intense public interest in this issue and appreciates the level of the public response but is clear that the lines of questioning will be determined by the Committee itself, carefully taking into account legal considerations. For these reasons, the Committee regrets it is unable to incorporate suggestions from the public as to lines of questioning."
That session is preceded by a Home Affairs Committee session with Sir Paul Stephenson, the newly-resigned Chief Commissioner of the Met. His attendance has been re-confirmed since his resignation at the weekend - but the Committee does not yet know whether their other invitation, to newly resigned Assistant Commissioner John Yates, will be accepted or not. I'll update as and when.
But the result of these two hearings will be a four hour plus hacking-fest, with possible overlap between the two committees… Home Affairs start at 12, and aim to finish by 3.
In the Chamber, the current schedule suggests there will be the usual end of term general debate - much improved by its reorganisation by the Backbench Business Committee - speakers are now grouped into themes with a series of ministers lined up to respond on each group of issues. So, for example, if several MPs want to talk about the future of their local A&E, they would have a Health minister lined up, and able to say something more substantive than "I will convey these concerns to my Rt hon friend".
Elsewhere, Energy and Climate Change Committee talk to minister Charles Hendry about the UK's energy security and independence; the International Development Committee has an intriguing-looking session on "Financial Crime and Development", with senior ministers Alan Duncan and Lord McNally, and the Health Committee speaks to minister Anne Milton about public health.
Peers, meanwhile, will have some quite heavy business: the Third Reading of the much mangled Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill - certain to be the subject of another bout of ping-pong with MPs, over its central provision, for elected Police Commissioners, which has been struck out by Their Lordships. Who will have their collar felt in the end? And they also start work on the Welfare Reform Bill - Iain Duncan Smith's radical reshaping of the benefits system. Conservative minister and one time Labour Government Welfare advisor Lord Freud will open proceedings.
And so to Wednesday where MPs - having been kept in Westminster for an extra day - will assemble for an update from the Prime Minister on the Hacking Scandal. The Leader of the House, Sir George Young, used a point of order to announce that ministers wanted an extra day's sitting to allow a statement and a full day's debate. This could well allow reports from the Culture and Home Affairs committees based on their evidence sessions on Tuesday to be prepared in time to inform the debate.
Peers were already booked to sit on Wednesday and, pausing only for a Question Time kickabout on the Lords Reform Draft Bill (expect much derision directed at Nick Clegg) and a public inquiry into News International, they will continue their detailed consideration of the Localism Bill..
And then, barring that recall, silence will fall on the debating chambers of Westminster until September... although there's already talk that they could be summoned back, if not on Hackery, then perhaps to deal with some euro-crisis and possible demands for a British contribution to a new bailout package. In theory MPs are back on Monday September 5th, but we shall see…