The week ahead: Leveson debate, Autumn Statement, X Factor final

The fallout from the release of the Leveson report continues with a Parliamentary debate on the inquiry on Monday, with immediate reaction last week pointing to a press less than enamoured with Leveson’s call for statutory underpinning for an independent regulatory body. Responding to the report following its release last Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his opposition to any statutory element, saying, ‘The issue of principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.’

An alliance of councils opposed to the High Speed 2 rail project takes its case to the High Court on Monday to seek a judicial review of the Government’s decision to proceed with the £34 billion project. The group, operating under the name 51m, claims that HS2 will cost every Parliamentary constituency in the country £51 million and that the project was greenlit on the basis of ‘an unfair consultation and inadequate environmental assessment’.

And David Bowie may finally get the answer to his question at the American Geophysical Union’s autumn meeting, where NASA is rumoured to be poised to announce the presence of Life on Mars.

House Magazine Minister of the year and wind farm bête noire John Hayes is up before the Energy and Climate Change Committee on Tuesday to discuss investment in energy infrastructure and last week’s Energy Bill, which followed up on David Cameron’s in-no-way-made-on-the-hoof commitment to force energy companies to put customers on their cheapest tariffs and proposed exempting some energy-intensive companies from the cost of the switch to renewable energy.

Finance ministers gather in Brussels on Tuesday with the deadline looming for an agreement on the creation of a single supervisory entity for European banking. The last ECOFIN Council in November broke up with doubts over the prospect of an agreement at this week’s meeting, with German and French opposition over the ECB’s remit on banks remaining one of the biggest stumbling blocks to any deal.

At the halfway point of this Parliament, George Osborne unleashes his latest Autumn Statement on Wednesday with the economy growing, unemployment falling and international bodies still cutting growth forecasts. The Chancellor is expected to flesh out the ‘shares for rights’ proposal floated earlier this Autumn and detail additional savings in the welfare budget, though the perceived success of the statement will likely hinge on the inclusion – or lack of – a commitment to scrap the 3p rise in fuel duty scheduled for January.

The newly be-fringed Duchess of Cambridge takes part in the annual ICAP charity day on Wednesday, where all ICAP companies traditionally donate the day’s revenues and commissions to charity. Previous royal involvement at the event has seen Prince Harry come over all Gordon Gekko and broker a £10 billion deal, while the Duke of Cambridge once secured a record foreign currency trade worth €17 billion.

By Wednesday, financially-stricken Ireland is expected to have put forward its 2013 budget proposals. Pundits predict the budget will implement another round of spending cuts and tax rises, with a carbon tax, cuts to tax relief on pension contributions and tweaks to the eligibility rules for state benefits among proposals being touted.


Thursday sees Britain’s 5th favourite royal Prince Charles attend the launch of intrepid explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ attempt at the first ever trans-Antarctic winter crossing, which is expected in March 2013. HRH meets Fiennes aboard the expedition’s boat the SA Agulhas, moored next to HMS Belfast.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is due in Turkey on Friday, and plans to visit Syrian refugees there to highlight the urgent need for international aid to those affected by Syria’s horrific and ongoing civil war.

After refusing to answer any questions at the release of last week’s report on press ethics and standards, Lord Justice Leveson makes his first post-Inquiry public appearance on Friday. Wily British hacks hoping to doorstep the Lord Chief Justice for a quote will be disappointed however; he’s speaking in Sydney, at a University of Technology event on Privacy in the 21st Century.

Dry those eyes, all good things must come to an end. This weekend sees the final of bloated TV sensation X Factor. Its ratings have struggled this year, with pundits largely putting the slump down to the show’s inability to reach out to the crucial friendless news blogger market.

Campaign group UK Uncut plans to target Starbucks stores nationwide on Saturday, promising to turn the profit-free coffee-monger into women’s refuge centres in an action it’s calling ‘Refuge from the Cuts’.

The week ends on a high for the Department for Transport, with the renewal date for the beleaguered West Coast rail franchise pulling into the station on Sunday. The Department’s plans for the franchise were de-railed when it was forced to reverse its decision to award it to Virgin’s rivals FirstGroup, citing ‘significant technical flaws’ in the bidding process.

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