It’s a busy week, this. Starting domestically, the saga of Theresa May’s battle to get rid of Abu Qatada continues on Monday at the Court of Appeal, where she’ll challenge the Special Immigration Appeals Commission’s ruling that the radical preacher should not face deportation to Jordan.
In the Commons, the Financial Services Bill, through which the Government will attempt to enact the Vickers proposals on banking reform, is up for its second reading by MPs. There’ll also be the inevitable dust-up between Chancellor George Osborne and his Shadow, Ed Balls, who’s expected to publish amendments to the bill that extend plans for structural reform.
The result of the referendum of Falkland Islanders is due to be announced on Monday evening, after the close of the second day of voting. Whatever the result, the referendum is unlikely to be accepted by the Argentine government, whose ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, declared the vote ‘illegal’ before it had begun.
Overseas, UN Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is due to brief EU foreign ministers at their meeting on developments in Europe’s ‘southern neighbourhood’, which takes in Turkey as well as Syria. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, last week confirmed that one million refugees had fled the violence in Syria, three months ahead of its predicted date for that milestone. In another milestone, Friday marks two years since the uprising began.
Finally for Monday, the annual Herzliya policy conference opens in Israel and again features its usual roster of heavyweight speakers, such as the Israeli president Shimon Peres and, reportedly, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
A couple of notable select committee sessions take place on Tuesday: the first is one of the Liaison Committee’s regular sessions with the Prime Minister, with the themes this time being the Government’s accountability for protecting the public and, in more timely fashion, developments in Syria and North Africa.
The second session sees the heads of exam boards appear before the Education Committee to discuss last summer’s GCSE English exam results which were the subject of complaints by students and teachers, an Ofqual inquiry, and a failed High Court challenge after grade boundaries were altered in order to prevent grade inflation. The bosses of the key players, the AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC boards, are all due to appear. And the Education Secretary gets a grilling of his own on Wednesday, when the Committee quizzes him on allegations of bullying by departmental staff.
Back to Tuesday, picture editors should be ready for their favourite statistical release, the CPI and RPI basket of goods and services, where the ONS attempts to define what would go into a theoretical national shopping basket. Last year previous favourites including boiled sweets and developed colour film were cast aside in favour of Johnny-come-lately items like pineapples, tablet computers and the Twilight saga books.
Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond host Russian counterparts Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu in London on Wednesday for the first-ever Russian-British Strategic Dialogue, which comes after Lavrov’s ‘constructive’ talks with new US Secretary of State John Kerry last month.
Providing she’s made a full recovery from a suspected bout of gastroenteritis which led to her spending a night in hospital last week, The Queen is due to follow in Boris and Dave’s footsteps and visit east London’s trendy Tech City (or Shoreditch to the layman) on Wendesday, where she’ll make stops at the thoroughly modern firms Mother and Yammer with a baffled Duke of Edinburgh.
The European Council convenes on Thursday, bringing together heads of state from across the Union for the first time since the recent Italian election. Lame-duck Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti attends on his country’s behalf. Italy’s Parliament is set to reconvene at the end of the week.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and fellow Keynes-fan Business Secretary Vince Cable are both on the bill for Thursday’s British Chambers of Commerce annual conference. Miliband was last year warned by the BCC against embarking on a ‘witch-hunt’ against the ‘valuable contribution’ of the financial services industry. Other speakers lined up include Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark.
A directions hearing takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday, ahead of the inquest into the death of Russia spy Alexander Litvinenko. The hearing will consider ‘detailed submission on timetable’ of the inquest, after Sir Robert Owen, who will lead it, suggested that the inquest could be delayed from its intended May 1.
What better way to spend a Saturday than in at the secretive Conservative Party Spring Forum, which kicks off on Saturday at an undisclosed location? The forum has been slimmed-down in recent years, but remains a key gathering for activists and volunteers to discuss the future direction of the party. Prime Minister David Cameron has addressed previous forums, but without that coveted SECURITY CODE we can only guess as to what’s on this year’s menu.
The clock’s ticking for Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli Prime Minister must form a government by Saturday. Bibi’s Likud party secured the largest bloc in the January 22 polls, and the exact make-up of any coalition remains very much up in the air at the time of writing.
Also on Saturday, voters in Zimbabwe go to the polls to approve or reject a new constitution. Under a power-sharing deal agreed in 2009, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) oversaw the drafting of a what it said would be a new ‘democratic and people-drive constitution’, a claim ridiculed by pressure groups, who argue it will leave too much power in the hands of President Robert Mugabe and his successors.
China’s 12th National People’s Congress closes on Sunday. The Congress has seen Xi Jinping become president, replacing Hu Jintao, and marking a once-in-a-decade change of leader for the nation’s ruling Communist Party.
And finally, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a St Patrick’s Day Parade in Hampshire on Sunday, where Kate’s every lip movement will no doubt be scrutinised for the implied revelation of closely-guarded secrets.