Week ahead in committees

The week's big event on the Committee Corridor - if they can make it work - will be the Home Affairs Committee's evidence session on the Woolwich murder.

A witness from the Met is promised, to answer questions on the Police handling of the tragedy - but with a live court case now in progress, the Committee could run slap into the sub-judice rule.

Here's my rundown of the week:


At 3.15pm the Public Accounts Committee will take evidence on the New Home Bonus, the government's incentive scheme to encourage local authorities to allow new housing to be built on their patch. The witnesses include the top civil servant at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Sir Bob Kerslake, and other top officials. This was a flagship initiative of former Housing Minister Grant Shapps, to encourage house-building, so how is it working out? According to this National Audit Office report, it is early days, but the signs are not encouraging.

The Transport Committee (4.05pm) continues its inquiry into access to transport for people with disabilities, with evidence from trade unionists, including the RMT's Bob Crow, and from Transport Minister Norman Baker. And the Communities and Local Government Committee (4.10pm) looks at the workings of Community Budgets - a government initiative to put the money being spent in a particular area into a single pot in a bid to encourage more focused efforts to deal with local problems. Senior council officials from Manchester, Birmingham and Cheshire West and Chester will talk about how it is working and, in particular, how community budgets can be focused on problem families.

The Science and Technology Committee (4.30pm) talks to Universities Minister David Willetts and Health Minister Lord Howe about the issues around clinical trials - including the selective publication of results by drug companies.


There was some talk that Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police might appear before the Home Affairs Committee to discuss the Woolwich murder - but this now seems unlikely. The committee will have someone from the Met, but it is not yet clear exactly who nor is it clear how much can be said in public, given that two men have now been charged. The provisional start time for the session is 2.45pm. Committee chair Keith Vaz says the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was a terrible reminder of the dangers of violent extremism and the session will be a "vital opportunity" to establish the facts in public with a briefing by the Metropolitan Police on what happened and on their response. The committee is also looking at People Trafficking (from 3.15pm) with witnesses including Dorkas Erskine, the National Coordinator of Eaves' Poppy Project which provides support, advocacy and accommodation to trafficked women, The Salvation Army's Ann-Marie Douglas, and (at 4.15pm) the Immigration Minister Mark Harper.

There is an important session of the Health Committee (9.30am) to look at the state of Emergency Services and Emergency Care with evidence from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives and National Ambulance Commissioners Group, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

The Public Administration Committee (9.30am) launches its inquiry into the way complaints are handled by public services, with evidence from a series of academic experts. Are complaints too often brushed aside, when they could be important warning signs that something is going wrong? And the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (10.30am) has a session to examine the implications of merging the Gambling Commission and the National Lottery Commission. And with increasing political concern at the impact of spending cuts on the armed forces, the Defence Committee (2.30pm) continues its inquiry entitled "Towards the next Defence and Security Review."


The Justice Committee (9.30am) continues its look at the issues around older prisoners with Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Michael Spurr and Dr Bruce Calderwood, the Director for Mental Health, Disability and Equality at the Department of Health.

The Education Committee (9.30am) takes evidence from two panels of expert witnesses about the effectiveness of Sure Start children's centres. They will look at the evidence base for current government policy and at how best to ensure a focus on quality and outcomes in their work.

The Public Accounts Committee (2.15pm) has a session looking at how police forces could make more use of their purchasing power to cut costs. This National Audit Office Report argues more could be done, but that it will require independently-minded forces to work together - and the committee will quiz Home Office officials about how this can be done.

The inquiry into food contamination scandals continues over at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (3pm) with evidence from the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath. And should Boris have more powers? Local government gurus Professor John Stewart and Professor Tony Travers gives their verdict on the workings of the Greater London Authority, as the Communities and Local Government Committee look at how the 2007 Act updating its powers is working out. (4.10pm)


After the defeat of Nick Clegg's plans for an elected House of Lords, what now? The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (10am) talks to the former Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman and Lord Steel, who has fought a relentless campaign for a modest tidying-up exercise, to remove the worst anomalies in the current set-up. Anoraks will be worn.

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