Viewing guide: The pick of the week ahead in Parliament
Another week of legislative feast (or force-feeding) in the Lords, and famine in the Commons, peers continue their long march through various government mega-bills, while MPs twiddle their thumbs and while away the hours in general debates, backbench debates and opposition days.
This is pretty much how things will remain until the end of this parliamentary year with only the prospect of the budget and occasional flurries of Lords amendments to divert MPs from their torpor.
Commons business begins at 2.30pm on Monday with questions to the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, and his team. And then from 3.30, in the absence of any ministerial statements it's on to two debates scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee.
The first will be on a motion reaffirming that the Commons disapproves of ministers announcing new policies in the media rather than in the chamber, to MPs. The motion is derived from a report by the Commons Procedure Committee, setting out a system where infractions will be punished by the Speaker, unless very grave, in which case they will be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee, the Commons disciplinary body. The report is the result of an earlier backbench debate, which instructed the Procedure Committee to come up with proposals - but, oddly, it's not the Procedure Committee Chair, Greg Knight, moving the motion, but Tory awkward squaddie Phillip Hollobone… What might that portend? At the moment, I'm told there's only a one-line whip on this debate, which means no party instruction to MPs on how to vote. But I bet the Government isn't keen on the prospect of its ministers being summoned to the Bar of the House for a ticking off, or some kind of parliamentary red card.
The second debate is equally interesting - a motion calling for the Government to produce a bill reforming the UK's extradition arrangements - as a matter of urgency. (See post below). Proceedings end with an adjournment debate on the Bonn Conference and Women in Afghanistan, led by the Conservative Margot James.
The action on the committee corridor is a little stronger than usual - the Welsh Affairs Select committee has bagged two cabinet ministers for the final session of its inquiry into Inward Investment in Wales - Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan and Business Secretary Vince Cable (from 2.30pm).
The financial watchdogs of the Public Accounts Committee have an unusual-looking session on a formidable sounding document called the Whole of Government Accounts. This is the first product of a year long effort to combine the accounts of the entire Government, some 1,300 bodies, into a single integrated production, a spreadsheet from hell. The main witness is Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Permanent Secretary at the Treasury (3.15pm). The Committee will be drawing on this report.
More high-profile figures discuss their travails with the press as the special inquiry into Privacy and Injunctions continues - this week Max Mosley, Steve Coogan, Zac Goldsmith MP, and Hugh Grant are the witnesses - followed by Steven Abell, the Director of the Press Complaints Commission.
The Treasury Committee begins its inquiry into the Autumn Statement - with a preliminary hearing (at 3.30pm) with economists and assorted academic experts. This is the first of three hearings this week - culminating with George Osborne's appearance before them on Wednesday (see below).
The turbo-charged super-committee on the National Security Strategy - a group of massively eminent former cabinet ministers and current select committee chairs meets Sir Peter Ricketts - National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. The committee was set up by Gordon Brown to oversee a more comprehensive approach to national security, but it has yet to really carve out a role for itself (4.30pm).
Elsewhere, the Scottish Affairs Committee is holding hearings on health and safety in Scotland in Glasgow City Chambers (11.30am).
In the Lords (starting at 2.30pm) it's the committee stage consideration of the Health and Social Care Bill. Peers are supposed to be covering the regulation of providers of NHS services and the work of Monitor, the body which is supposed to police competition and cooperation within the new system.
Tuesday is a busy Commons day for the Chancellor and his Treasury team. The day starts with Treasury Questions at 2.30pm and then the main business is a general debate on the economy. The only respite is a Ten Minute Rule Bill proposed by Labour's John Cryer, to set up a register of parliamentary lobbyists. Westminster Hall - the Commons parallel debating chamber, where non-party controversial issues are aired - sees two debates on veterans' issues. At 11.00 am Labour's former cabinet minister Hazel Blears leads a debate on the mental health of veterans and at 12.30 the Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage opens a debate on the proposal for an Arctic Convoy Veterans Medal.
Those Treasury ministers will doubtless want to keep an eye on the Treasury Committee's second hearing of the week (at 10am) with Robert Chote of the Office for Budget Responsibility - the new quango set up to take economic forecasting out of the Treasury and the political arena.. Expect probing of the economic outlook and of the implications for Britain of a meltdown in the Euro-zone.
Also at 10, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee hears from BIS Minister Ed Davey about the regulation of pub companies. After four full-dress reports and years of inquiries, the committee is convinced that the big PubCos are abusing their power in the market and imposing unfair trading conditions on pub landlords. The chair, Labour's Adrian Bailey says he extracted a public promise from Secretary of State Vince Cable to legislate, if they decided that the latest attempt at a voluntary code of practice had not produced improvement; the committee says things have not improved, but Mr Bailey is dismissive of the government's response. The minister's appearance is intended to be the prelude to a full Commons debate on a motion, probably instructing the government to legislate.
The Health Committee (10am again) has a session with Andrew Dilnot, who chaired a Commission on Funding of Care and Support along with his colleagues Dame Jo Williams, and former Health Minister Lord Warner. And the Transport Committee has a session on the Draft Civil Aviation Bill. The witnesses are likely to be grouped into three panels, on airports, airlines and the consumer, environmental and freight sectors.
The Home Affairs Committee (1100) continues its look at the roots of violent radicalisation - the Committee spoke to Abu Hamza and other inmates at Belmarsh Prison - this session will hear from academic experts, then from David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorist Legislation and finally (at 12.15pm) from James Brokenshire MP, Minister for Crime and Security at the Home Office.
Finally keep an eye on the Public Administration Committee's pre-appointment hearing (at 4.30pm) for the chair of the UK Statistics Authority - in June, Dame Janet Finch, withdrew her name from consideration after being quizzed by the committee - and ministers promised it a bigger role in this appointment in the future. The new candidate is Andrew Dilnot, making his second select committee appearance of the day.
In the Lords, (from 2.30) it's the second day of detailed committee stage scrutiny of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Watch out for an amendment from Labour's Lady Royall which would recognise stalking as a crime and clearly identify stalking behaviour in legislation. It would also ensure that the criminal justice system treats cases of stalking and harassment with the level of seriousness they deserve by increasing the maximum penalty from 6 months to 5 years and by allowing cases to be tried in the Crown Court as well as the Magistrates. Lady Royall may not press the amendments to a vote at this stage - but she may have another go at creating a stalking offence when the bill reaches its report stage.
On Wednesday Commons proceedings begin at 11.30am, with questions to the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell - and then to the Prime Minister. MPs will then work their way through a rather humdrum list of chores - opposed private bills, an EU document to approve and a series of votes on various appointments. The highlight may prove to be a motion on the Membership of the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - the very light-touch oversight body which appoints the officials who run the MPs expenses watchdog. Any IPSA-related motion usually provokes a chorus of complaints about the expenses regime. And the Commons day ends with an adjournment debate, led by the Conservative David Amess, about experimentation on animals.
As always on a Wednesday it's a very busy committee day -- with the Treasury Committee holding its third session on the Autumn Statement with George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. His forecasts, his growth strategy and the danger of the collapse of the Euro will be key topics - to state the obvious. (2.15pm)
The new Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond, makes his debut at the Defence Committee at 2.30pm. This is a general session and they can ask about pretty much anything - but it's a fair bet that the recent and rather critical Public Accounts Committee report into the decisions which resulted in the Royal Navy having two aircraft carriers with no aircraft will come up.
Elsewhere, the Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling, appears before the European Scrutiny Committee (2.15pm) to talk about the European Council decision on coordination of social security. Britain does not want to take part - and the Government believes it does not have to, because it normally has to choose to opt into justice and home affairs matters. This is sensitive stuff - and even if it is rather technical, this could be a hearing with considerable ramifications.
The Health Committee has a session on the professional responsibility of healthcare practitioners - with witnesses from the Care Quality Commission, the Royal College of Nursing, and the British Medical Association.(2.30pm)
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (2.30pm) has a session on fuel laundering and smuggling, with witnesses from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. And the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee questions minister Richard Benyon on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy at 3pm.
The Public Accounts Committee take evidence on delivering aid through direct transfers to beneficiaries. The Department for International Development (DfID) is successfully getting money to poor people, but needs to focus more on how cost-effectively they are delivered. Witnesses include Save the Children, Care International and Mark Lowcock the Permanent Secretary at DfID.(3pm)
In the Lords (starting at 3pm) it's Day 11 of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee Stage - looking in detail at the provisions on provider regulation, licensing and pricing - some amendments may be pushed to a vote. And there may be renewed calls from Labour peers for the Department of Health to publish its risk register - the document setting out its assessment of the risks of the NHS changes in the Bill.
On Thursday the Commons begins at 10.30 with questions to the Business Secretary, Vince Cable. That may prove to be the highlight of a pretty thin day. After an hour, the Leader of the House, Sir George Young, will announce next week's business in the House - which is usually the cue for demands for debates on a host of subjects. And then a money resolution on the Local Government Ombudsman Bill - a private members bill from Tory backbencher Christopher Chope which would extend the powers of the local government ombudsman to provide redress against local authorities that unreasonably ban events on the grounds of health and safety. And, at the time of writing, er, that's it. So expect the adjournment debate led by labour's Nia Griffiths on extending the approved use of low-dose Naltrexone to start pretty rapidly - and for the Commons to shut up shop by early afternoon, unless some other business is added.
There are, however, a few committee sessions, including a promising looking session of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (10am) with Tony Benn, discussing the "path to codifying-or not codifying-the UK's constitution" alongside Professor Richard Gordon QC, and Frank Vibert. Mr Benn's Commonwealth of Britain Bill - introduced in 1991, was the last attempt to legislate a written constitution. And the Home Affairs Committee is seeking to organise a further session on UK border controls in the summer of 2011 - but it is not confirmed as yet.
Meanwhile the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has its second session of the week on the Common Fisheries Policy - the witnesses include East Sussex fishermen, the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, a local restauranteur and Billingsgate Seafood Training .
The Lords turn from heavy legislating to light recreation -- with a series of debates led by individual peers. The first, led by Lord Haskell, is on the development and retention of manufacturing industry in the UK. Then Lord Dubs leads a debate on the support available for people with neurological conditions, and there's a short debate on the future of Citizens Advice Bureaux - led by Lord Boateng.
The Commons does not sit on Friday, but in the Lords, from 10am, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams leads a debate on the situation of Christians in the Middle East.