Week ahead in committees

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The government's hokey-cokey act with EU justice and policing powers (you opt some powers out, you opt some powers in...) seems to be attracting increasing attention on the committee corridor, with different committees lining up to hear from the justice secretary and the home secretary.

That process continues this week, and with one of the key actors in this particular drama, Bill Cash's EU Scrutiny Committee, visibly dissatisfied with the way the issue is being handled, the scrutiny could become increasingly uncomfortable and the whole thing looks likely to boil over onto the floor of the Commons at some stage.

Here's my rundown of this week's committee action.


On Monday, following on from their look at the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides Prince Charles' income, the Public Accounts Committee (3.15pm) turns its attention to the royal household accounts, with evidence from key court officials, Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen, and Mike Stevens, Deputy Treasurer to The Queen.

This is the first time the PAC has taken a wide ranging look at the way the "sovereign grant," the money which funds the Queen, is spent - previous inquiries have tended to focus on more specific areas like the royal palaces - so it will be precedent-setting as well.

With the departure of such luminaries as Ian Davidson and Alan Williams, the committee is probably not as republican as it used to be, but the Chair, Margaret Hodge, knows no fear and these sessions are always fun.

Sir Jon Cunliffe, formerly the UK's permanent representative to the EU, is before the Treasury Committee at 4pm for a hearing on his appointment of as the deputy governor (financial stability) at the Bank of England.

Expect questioning to focus on some of the EU dimensions to the economic crisis and the state of the euro.

And the Transport Committee (4.15pm) has a session with Sir David Higgins, the chief executive of Network Rail - with a "robust interrogation" promised.

The Communities and Local Government Committee looks set to grill the DCLG permanent secretary, Sir Bob Kerslake on management issues within his department - the National Audit Office qualified the department's accounts for 2012-13, and the European Commission has held back regional development money because of inadequate management checks.

Sir Bob and a supporting cast of top officials will be asked to explain.

The Science and Technology Committee (4.30pm) follows up on its marine science inquiry, with the focus on the government's pledge to create protected marine reserves.

Marine biologists and conservation groups will give their views.

Tuesday's committee highlight will probably be the double-headed session of the Home Affairs Committee, stating at 2.30pm.

They open with a Keith Bristow the head of the newly created National Crime Agency - which replaces Soca, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

What will his role and that of his organisation be?

Does he consider himself an active police officer or a civil servant?

And what will he do with the backlog of Soca files on rogue private detectives - a subject in which the committee is deeply interested?

After, the Home Secretary Theresa May gives evidence.

She can expect questions about the new Immigration Bill and about the case of Anas Al-Liby, the terrorist suspect who was seized by US forces in Libya, and turned out to have been given asylum in Britain some years ago.

The BIS Committee (9.30am) continues its scrutiny of the Government's draft consumer rights bill - which attempts to codify and consolidate consumer protection legislation which is scattered across dozens of acts of parliament, and which sets out new rules on collective actions against traders via the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The practitioners, the Office of Fair Trading, the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officer, and the Trading Standards Institute give their thoughts..

Up and coming Education Minister Elizabeth Truss will be explaining the government's approach to the foundation years after its recent u-turn on child to adult ratios in nurseries at the Education Committee (9.30am).

The Public Administration Committee (9.30am) continues its inquiry into complaints: do they make a difference?

Oliver Letwin, the Minister for government policy in the Whitehall engine room - the Cabinet Office, is the witness - and the appearance of a top minister usually heralds the end of the evidence-gathering phase of an inquiry.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee (10.30am) looks at online safety, with Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, NSPCC, and Beat Bullying; Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and Internet Watch Foundation (at 11.30 am).

Expect the social media giants to be called in later on.

The Health Committee (2pm) will hold a pre-appointment hearing for the new chair of Monitor, the NHS competition regulator, even before the government's preferred candidate has been announced.

Monitor is a key part of the government's new architecture for the NHS - designed to ensure that private and public service providers compete on fair terms, thereby cutting costs.

So what will be the major challenges for the chair?

The implementation of the next phase of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (2014-20) comes under scrutiny at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2pm).

Will the new system, as flexibly administered by member states, live up to promises from EU leaders of a "greener, fairer and less bureaucratic CAP".

There'll be evidence from RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the Institute for European Environmental Policy.

And the Northern Ireland Committee (2.30pm) hears evidence from Roger Pollen, head of external affairs NI Federation of Small Businesses on banking reform - the focus is on the availability of credit to small firms.

The hearing to watch on Wednesday may well be the Justice Committee's session (9.30am) on British opt outs from EU justice and home affairs powers, with the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

The government wants the UK to opt out of all 133 EU home affairs regulations next year.

And then opt back in to 35 measures seen as useful.

Mr Grayling and Teresa May had an uncomfortable time before the European Scrutiny Committee on this issue and it is clear that there are concerns both about the process of decision making on this hyper-sensitive question and on the substance of the decision on which powers to keep.

There will also be a section of the hearing devoted to Legal Aid.

The Public Accounts Committee (2.15pm) takes evidence on the National Audit Office's standard report on HMRC.

This is a mammoth production, so the committee's taking it in bite sized chunks, and this hearing will deal with the section on personal taxation - covering issues like PAYE, real time information and personal tax credits.

With a Commons debate in which MPs will be invited to call for the government's defence reforms to be paused due on Thursday, the Defence Committee (3.30pm) hears from the Chief of Defence Staff, General Nick Houghton.

What can be done to increase the number of women opting for Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers?

And retain them in those jobs once they have started?

The Science and Technology Committee (9.15am) asks, er, scientists.

The Work and Pensions Committee (9.30am) holds its fourth evidence on the role of JobCentre Plus in the reformed welfare system.

JCP is a key component of the more pro-active system designed the government wants to create to help people into work and is closely linked to the new Universal Credit benefit system and the sanctions regime which accompanies it.

The Health Committee (3.30pm) continues its inquiry into the practical and financial challenges posed to the NHS by the needs of patients with chronic conditions like diabetes.

And the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee (3pm) will continue its inquiry into tree health and plant biosecurity - is the government doing enough to protect against exotic diseases arriving from abroad and other threats to UK tree and plant health?

The witness list includes landowners, farmers the Woodland Trust and the RSPB.

On Thursday the Political and Constitutional Reform (10am) resumes its look at parliament's role in conflict decision in the light of the vote against intervention in the Syrian civil war.

The witnesses are international lawyer Philippe Sands, and academics.

And there's a real rarity - a select committee sitting on Friday - when the Scottish Affairs Committee (11am) heads to Fife, to take evidence on changes to housing benefit (the "bedroom tax") and zero hours contracts.