Week ahead in committees
- 4 February 2013
- From the section UK Politics
There will be no shortage of drama on the committee corridor this week; big beasts and big issues seem to emerge at almost every meeting...
But my tip as the most significant is the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standard's series of four hearings with City masters of the universe. The bosses of Lloyds, Barclays, JP Morgan and HSBC appear before them, over four days. And the cumulative impact of what they have to say about standards, the bonus culture, lending to business, particularly to small business and a multitude of other issues, could ring around the City and the wider economy.
The hearings may be more than a pure exercise in evidence-gathering. My impression is that the Commission is, quite strategically, seeking to underpin its conclusions with verbal evidence, so that they will be very difficult for a sceptical government to ignore. Since these hearings tend to be conducted at a pretty rarefied level of expertise, their most important moments may not be obvious to non-City folk....but, as I say, they could echo through the financial world, when the Commission reports.
One other point - as predicted in this blog at the new year - Nick Clegg makes his debut before the Commons Liaison Committee. I don't know if you could call the hearing, this Tuesday, a historic occasion, but the DPM will face the same kind of questioning as David Cameron. These are general sessions, because Mr Clegg has across-the-board responsibilities, so he could be asked about pretty much anything. His invitation follows complaints that he had not been prepared to appear before the Environmental Audit Committee, to talk about his role as the UK representative in the recent climate change talks in Rio.
Here's my rundown of the week's other highlights:
What came out of the Brown Review on rail franchising? The Transport Committee on Monday at 4.05pm quizzes representatives from the rail sector along with Passenger Focus, TfL and the Passenger Transport Executive Group. Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin will be questioned on the resumption of the paused rail franchises.
The Communities and Local Government Committee (at 4.10pm) ponders the state of the private rented housing sector, with academics, Shelter, the Local Government Association and the National Private Tenants Association.
The Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) revisits one of its favourite subjects and takes evidence on the MOD Major Project Report 2012 and MoD Equipment Plan. The report from the National Audit Office notes some progress, but says the MoD still has work to do to address its long standing problems in procuring weapons systems. The witnesses are top officials and officers from the MoD.
The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (at 4.30pm) begins a series of hearings throughout this week with the top executives at the big banks. First up is António Horta-Osório, group chief executive, and Sir Winfried Bischoff, chairman of Lloyds. (See above)
On Tuesday, the Scottish Affairs Committee's highly charged inquiry into blacklisting of workers by employers continues (at 1.30pm) with evidence from Jack Winder, a former director of the Economic League, an organisation set up in 1919 to oppose what they saw as subversion and "action against free enterprise".
The International Development Committee (at 9.30am) ponders the threat of a global food security crisis caused by rising demand, growing populations, climate change and environmental problems. witnesses include NGOs, food policy experts and economists.
The Justice Committee questions the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, on his work (at 9.30am). This is always an interesting session. He may have something to say about the latest data breach at Twitter....
Anthony Jenkins, group chief executive of Barclays, and Sir David Walker, chairman of Barclays, appear before the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (at 9.45am). And down the corridor, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (at 9.30am) holds the first evidence session of its inquiry into the Kay Review of UK Equity Markets and Long-Term Decision Making. The witness is the man himself, Professor John Kay, chair of the Review.
Hacked Off, the hacking victims' group, who have drafted a "Leveson Bill" appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The meeting starts at 10.30am, and Hacked Off come to the wicket at 11.15; before that, they hear from the Press Council of Ireland, and the Irish Press Ombudsman. Both should have some interesting things to say about Lord Leveson's proposals for press regulation.
Another highly charged hearing will be the Home Affairs Committee (at 3.15pm). It takes evidence on undercover policing, in the light of a recent case where an undercover police officer was alleged to have acted improperly, from lawyers Harriet Wistrich and Jules Care; but first they take evidence in private from people directly affected by their unwitting association with undercover officers.
That hearing of the Liaison Committee with the Deputy PM Nick Clegg is at 4pm.
The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards takes evidence from Bill Winters, former member of the Independent Commission on Banking and former co-chief executive officer of JP Morgan Investment Bank. This will be followed by evidence from consumer groups and basic bank account providers.
The Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege (at 5.05pm) is looking into some of the tangled issues around the powers of parliament and the legal protections MPs have in order to represent their constituents. The committee hears from the former Clerk of the Commons, Sir Malcolm Jack and Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who has stretched parliamentary conventions with his attempts to raise issues around the work of the Family Court.
William Hague is probably too old a hand to say anything untoward as he gives evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday (at 2.30pm) on the future of the European Union - but in the light of David Cameron's support for renegotiation of British membership, and a referendum on the result, this evidence session will be studied closely both here and in Brussels. His supporting cast includes Sir John Cunliffe, UK Permanent Representative to the EU, who is high in the demonology of Conservative eurosceptics. One to watch, study, maybe read the transcript afterwards.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee (from 9am) takes evidence on the Green Deal home improvement loan scheme. Are the interest rates set low enough to make it attractive to householders? Energy Action, Affinity Sutton, Residential Landlords Association, and Insulation Industries Forum and then officials from the Department for Energy and Climate Change give their views.
Stuart Gulliver, group chief executive and Douglas Flint, group chairman of HSBC Holdings, appear before the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards at 9.45am.
The Environmental Audit Committee (at 2.15pm) edges closer to delivering a verdict on whether neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned. The committee has been taking evidence (in rather impressive depth) on their effects on bees and pollinating insects. Last week the European Food Safety Authority warned that neonicotinoid pesticides should not be used on crops attractive to honey bees. But chemical firm Bayer told the committee their assessment was riddled with "knowledge gaps". The first witness is the European food regulator.
Meanwhile the Environment Food & Rural Affairs Committee (at 2.30pm) looks at funding for flood protection and prevention, with the Local Government Association, and the Association of Drainage Authorities.
And the European Scrutiny Committee pauses from its normal scrutiny of EU legislation to quiz senior figures from the BBC on the coverage of the European Scrutiny system in the Commons (at 2.30pm).
The Scottish Affairs Committee (at 2.30pm) opens a new front in its scrutiny of the implications of Scottish independence...turning to the economic aspects, including the impact on public pensions. HM Treasury, and Scottish Public Pensions Agency give evidence.
With increasing political concern over the need to boost spending on Britain's infrastructure, the Public Accounts Committee (at 3.15pm) weighs in. Drawing on this report, the committee examines the risks and value for money around the £250bn expected to be spent on infrastructure projects. Witnesses from industry, the pension funds, and government give their thoughts.
The week ends on Thursday with a bang as the Treasury Committee (at 9.45pm) has a pre-appointment hearing with Dr Mark Carney, soon to become one of the most powerful people in the land, when he takes over as the next governor of the Bank of England. No one seriously expects any attempt to interview an appointment which attracted acclaim - so this is more of a getting to know you session.
Elsewhere, the Joint Committee on the Draft Care and Support Bill (at 9.45am), the measure to sort out the social care system, hears from the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and his junior ministers Norman Lamb and Dr Daniel Poulter.
And the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (at 10am) questions constitutional experts on the role and powers of the prime minister.