Tessa Jowell’s routine appearance in the House of Commons to answer questions on her departmental brief will attract more attention than usual as her career continues to hang in the balance. The red carpet is rolled out for the state visit by Brazil’s charismatic President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Bank of England ponders a clutch of mixed data as it makes its monthly interest rate decision.
House of Commons
On Monday the Police and Justice Bill, a package of measures aimed at improving police accountability and empowering local communities to tackle anti-social behaviour, gets its second reading. The bill also contains plans for police to have access to travel details on passengers using domestic flights and ferries as part of intelligence gathering on suspected criminals, measures which face resistance from the airline industry.
On Monday afternoon all eyes will be on an event which usually attracts scant notice, a routine appearance by the culture secretary to answer MPs’ questions on her department brief. As the opposition clamour for Tessa Jowell to quit continues, Italian prosecutors could this week demand that Ms Jowell’s estranged husband David Mills stands trial for corruption in Italy.
On Monday Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva begins a four-day state visit to Britain, the first by a Brazilian head of state since 1997. Along with the usual royal red carpet pompery the charismatic president will hold talks with Tony Blair on Thursday, likely to centre on trade issues and will use his time in London to lobby for compromise in the Doha round. On Thursday he will hold a working breakfast with leaders of the CBI, British enterprises and financial institutions.
Numbers in the news this week include January’s industrial production data and trade in goods and services figures, both due out on Thursday. On Tuesday, the British Retail Consortium publishes its sales monitor for February. The BRC’s survey will be closely scrutinised after January’s figures showed the weakest high street sales for more than a decade and should give the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee food for thought at its rate setting meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.
A mixed batch of economic data and minutes from February’s meeting, which showed no growing consensus for lower rates, have led analysts unanimously to expect rates to be left on hold at 4.5 per cent for the seventh month running when the MPC makes its announcement at midday on Thursday.
On Friday the FT’s house price index should shed some light on conflicting reports on the health of the housing market just ahead of the crucial spring house buying season. The FT’s index is designed to provide the most accurate guide to the real trends in residential property prices using Land Registry data (the only complete data source for domestic property prices in England and Wales.)
David Cameron, Conservative Party leader, heads north on Monday to hold a shadow cabinet meeting in Liverpool where he will also make a statement on urban regeneration. The city, which has no Conservative MPs, has hitherto been immune to Tory charms. Conservative MP Boris Johnson was forced to make a grovelling apology after the magazine he edited accused Liverpudlians of being mawkish in their reaction to the beheading in Iraq of local man Ken Bigley.