Week ahead in committees

I'm afraid it's a pretty humdrum week in Committee-land, with a dearth of cabinet ministers and a notable absence of cutting-edge party politics in forthcoming hearings.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is the biggest name appearing before any committee and the Science and Technology Committee's hearing on the possibility that vCJD might be silently spreading via medical procedures could be rather flesh-creeping.

And elsewhere the joint committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill continues its evidence-taking yomp through the week with two sessions on both Tuesday and Thursday, as they prepare the Bill to be launched on its formal parliamentary consideration in the next few weeks.

Here's my rundown of the week's highlights:


The Public Administration Committee (2pm) journeys to Sheffield University to quiz local councillors community groups and business representatives on reforming public services.

The Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) has a second hearing on infrastructure investment and its impact on consumer bills based on this National Audit Office report which found that the government and industry regulators need reliable information on how much of the cost of new sewers, generators etc could be loaded directly onto utility bills, and 'how much is too much'.

Civil Servants from the Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change give evidence.

Should big city councils have more sweeping powers to raise money through local taxation?

Mayor Boris Johnson and a supporting cast from London local government appear before the Communities and Local Government Committee's inquiry into fiscal devolution to cities (4pm).

And the Transport Committee (4.05pm) looks at the problems of isolated communities, with witnesses from one of the most isolated, the Scilly Isles.

Do they suffer from inadequate investment in infrastructure compared to other parts of the UK?

There are also witnesses from the Merseytravel passenger transport executive and, finally, from the junior transport minister Baroness Kramer.


The Business Innovation and Science Committee focuses on the impact of mining operations abroad and whether they provide sufficient benefit to local people.

Part of the reason for its inquiry into the extractive industries is that so many international resource companies are based in Britain.

Representatives from WWF-UK, Christian Aid, the London Mining Network, and the World Development Movement give evidence (10am).

Is it over yet?

Over at the Lords EU Sub-Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs (10.30am), Sir John Cunliffe, deputy governor for financial stability at the Bank of England, will give evidence about the eurozone crisis, including on the effect on UK banks on the European Commission's proposals for banking union.

The Scottish Affairs Committee (2.30pm) looks at the opaque and extremely concentrated pattern of land ownership in Scotland, with evidence from Scottish Land and Estates, the Historic Houses Association, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Jim Gallagher, of Nuffield College, Oxford.

The Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill hears from the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children in its morning session (10.30am), and from members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly in the afternoon (2.15pm).

Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer will give evidence to the Health Committee following her last annual report -and her evidence will feed into their inquiry into children's and adolescent mental health. (4pm)

The Lords Communications Committee (4.30pm) will hold a one-off evidence session with the outgoing chair of Ofcom, Dame Colette Bowe, who has served there since March 2009.

The session will be a chance for her to reflect on the changes in the communications sector during her period as chair, and explore the implications for regulation, the role of Ofcom, its independence and government policy on the media more widely.


Is variant CJD, the human form of "mad cow disease", silently spreading through the population through medical procedures, blood transfusions and organ transplants?

The Science and Technology Committee look at the lack of effective blood, tissue and organ screening for the protein which can cause the disease.

They will take evidence from companies developing solutions to the problem (9.15am)

The Foreign Affairs Committee is using the opportunity of a visit to the busy consular service establishment in Malaga to nip across the border to Gibraltar and take evidence from chief minister, Fabian Picardo MP on the fraught relationship between Gibraltar and Spain, and the spate of recent maritime and border incidents.

Their hearing is at 9.30am at the Garrison Library, Gibraltar.

With the UK slipping down the international educational league tables, the Education Committee has a promising-looking session with the architect of the international Pisa rankings, Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and skills at the OECD.

Does he think the UK government's efforts to increase school autonomy will reverse that trend? (9.30am)

The Lords Constitution Committee (10.30am) quizzes academic experts on the constitutional implications for the rest of the UK of Scottish independence.

Environmental Audit looks at marine protected areas with evidence from North Sea Marine Cluster, National Federation of Fisherman's Organisations, and Royal Yachting Association; Marine Management Organisation (14.15, Thatcher Room

The PAC takes evidence on the Education Funding Agency and Department for Education Accounts based on this NAO report, which warned that unless it adapts to new demands upon it, the agency might become overloaded. T

the witnesses include: Chris Wormald, the permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Peter Lauener, the chief executive of the Education Funding Agency (2.15pm).

The Scottish Affairs Committee once again examines the financial impact of independence from the UK.

How would the important financial services sector in Scotland cope in the absence of a currency union with the UK? (2.30pm)

How far can a greater reliance on organic crops improve UK agriculture over the longer term?

Will GM be the greater saviour?

The Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, the Country Land and Business Association, the Crop Protection Association, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Professor Sue Hartley, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Institute at the University of York all give evidence to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's inquiry into UK food security (3pm).


The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (10am) looks at how the final year of the UK's first fixed term Parliament will play out, both politically and constitutionally.

Peter Riddell of the Institute for Government, the pundit's pundit, Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and Minister for Government Policy Oliver Letwin MP join a stellar witness list.

Anoraks will be worn.

The joint committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill continues its evidence-taking yomp.

In the morning, it looks at the different approaches in Europe and in the afternoon, at how to protect child victims and secure convictions of the serious organised criminals involved, with David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and John Vine the chief inspector of borders and immigration, and others (2.30pm).