Week ahead in committees

My pick of the week's select committee business is Monday's hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee (at 1pm), on the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland.

The committee has ventured north to Edinburgh, to hear from SNP Minister Nicola Sturgeon on an independent Scotland's foreign policy and how Scottish independence could affect the rest of the UK's foreign and diplomatic affairs.

EU membership, the Trident nuclear submarines, Nato and bilateral political and security relations between Scotland and the remaining UK look likely subjects for discussion. It could be a pretty sparky session given the SNP's lack of enthusiasm for Westminster scrutiny, and UK Europe Minister David Lidington will join the fun. You might have expected the hearing to be held at the Scottish Parliament, but in fact the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, will provide the venue. And MPs are a little miffed about that.

Here's the rest of the week's events in committee-land...

On Monday, the Public Accounts Committee (at 3.15pm) returns to one of its favourite subjects; the Customer Service Performance of HM Revenue and Customs. HMRC boss Lin Homer is in the dock - sorry, is the witness. The financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, remains unhappy with their performance complaining that "HMRC's performance in answering calls from the public is poor value for money".

The Transport Committee (at 4.35pm) has a session following up its research on the commercial viability of a new hub airport to replace Heathrow. The findings of the economic consultancy, Oxera, were leaked this week (and the committee has some pretty definite ideas about whodunit) were that, under most scenarios, expected revenues from a new hub airport would be less than the likely costs of construction - so the development would not be commercially viable without substantial support from the taxpayer.

In the light of that finding, the committee takes further evidence for its Aviation Inquiry, from witnesses for and against such a development. And watch out for any pointing of the finger at alleged leakers...

Housing minister Mark Prisk and DWP benefits minister Lord Freud top the bill at the Communities and Local Government Committee hearing on benefit reform (at 4.10pm). The CAB, Shelter and a large local authority landlord, give their views on implementation of changes to housing benefit and council tax benefit by local authorities.

And the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (at 4.30pm) continues its intensive work programme, quizzing another titan of the City, Martin Taylor, the former chief executive of Barclays.

Committee business is very brisk on Tuesday, with the Home Affairs Committee (from 2.40pm) holding one of its multiple evidence sessions. They'll quiz ministers Jeremy Browne and Don Foster on the Draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, then they'll talk to former MP Ann Cryer, about her experience in campaigning against localised child grooming. They then turn to E-Crime, followed by a session devoted to Capita's work for the UK Border.

The Justice Committee (at 9.30am) continues its look at the treatment of women by the criminal justice system, with evidence from pressure groups the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League for Penal Reform.

The kerfuffle about the allegedly obstructive role in Whitehall of the Sir Humpheys continues at the Public Administration Committee (at 9.30am), where Lord Wilson of Dinton, the former Cabinet Secretary; Dame Janet Paraskeva, the former first Civil Service Commissioner and former ministers Nick Harvey, Nick Herbert, Caroline Spelman, and Lord Adonis give their thoughts on the future of the Civil Service.

And if that's not tekky enough for you, the Treasury Committee (at 9.30am) holds its first evidence session on quantitative easing. The National Association of Pension Funds and Dr Ros Altman, director general of SAGA talk about the effect of QE on pensioners.

The Work and Pensions Committee holds the second evidence session of its inquiry into the Work Programme. The committee takes evidence from representatives of particular disadvantaged groups of unemployed people. Giving evidence are Crisis, Drugscope, Mind, and the Single Parent Action Network. It's at 9.30am.

A Cabinet double act of Business Secretary Vince Cable and Welsh Secretary David Jones gives evidence on the steel industry in Wales to the Welsh Affairs Committee at 1.30pm; while the Defence Committee (at 2.30pm) begins its inquires on the Education of Service Children and Service Personnel, with witnesses from service families groups.

And so to Wednesday, where the EFRA Committee (at 2.45pm) takes evidence from the horse's mouth, (sorry), from the government, Tesco, Iceland and the Food Standards Agency on the contamination of beef products. The witnesses include some combative characters - the FSA Chair Lord Rooker (the artist formerly known as Jeff Rooker), Agriculture and Food minister David Heath MP, and Health Minister Anna Soubry. The session will focus on the effectiveness of traceability, labelling and hygiene standards in the food supply chain and the role of government, food processors and retailers; and responsibility for food safety and port entry controls of meat imports. Bring popcorn.

Another fun hearing will be the appearance of Planning Minister Nick Boles and Lord Taylor, chair of the External Review of Planning Practice Guidance before the Communities and Local Government Committee (at 4.30pm). Mr Boles's enthusiasm for promoting development has already made him one of the more controversial middle-ranking ministers, and he will doubtless be quizzed about his latest proposal, to allow former offices to be converted to residential use. Will there be enough local services like schools, highways, parking, sewerage?

The Energy and Climate Change Committee (at 9.15am) has a session on the pros and cons of a hydro-electric power barrage across the River Severn. Backers claim it could produce as much clean power as three nuclear power stations and create thousands of jobs; conservationists have deep concerns about the effect on wildlife. The witnesses include developers Hafren Power and the Country Land and Business Association.

The Work and Pensions Committee (at 9.30am) hears evidence particular disadvantaged groups of unemployed people in its inquiry into the Work Programme. Witnesses include: Crisis, Drugscope, Mind, and the Single Parent Action Network.

And as the Environmental Audit Committee (at 2.15pm) prepares to give its view on whether neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned, the German chemical giant Bayer is summoned back to Parliament to explain inconsistencies in its previous evidence on how long they can linger in the environment. Neonicotinoids were recently branded an 'unacceptable' danger to bees by the EU Food Safety Authority. The committee has taken extensive evidence on this issue and seems likely to recommend a ban.

Finally, one for the insiders - the Procedure Committee (at 3.05pm) hears from former Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst and other MPs about ways to improve the private members' bill system. New chair Charles Walker has a reputation as a keen parliamentary moderniser, and this inquiry may be the vehicle for a process that at least ends the weekly farce of Commons hired guns "talking out" bills by making interminable and unimaginably boring speeches - forcing ministers to kill unwelcome bills in the light of day, rather than by stealth.

On Thursday, it's much quieter on the committee corridor - but look out for the publication of the Transport Committee's verdict on the West Coast mainline franchise fiasco. It will be published just after midnight, so its findings should make the morning news bulletins.

The only committee hearing is of the special committee doing scrutiny of the Draft Care and Support Bill (at 9.45am) - the bill to create a rational system for social care for the elderly and disabled. It will be taking evidence from the HRA, Academy of Medical Sciences, Wellcome Trust, HFEA, Human Tissue Authority, Genetic Alliance UK, and the BMA.

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