The week ahead: The Budget, Health and Social Care Bill, Queen to address Parliament

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A journalists’ guide to the big diary stories of the week ahead provided by forward planning service Foresight News.

It’s Budget week, and speculation about what’s going to be in the Chancellor’s box will be filling the pages of our newspapers for a few days more. On Monday the infamous quad of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander meets for the final time to fine-tune plans ahead of Wednesday’s statement, more on which later.

The at times tortuous passage of the Health and Social Care Bill is nearing completion, with the third reading stage in the Lords scheduled for Monday; that is, unless former SDP-er Lord Owen’s amendment to delay the reading is passed. Ministers are reportedly keen for the Bill to be passed before the Budget, and the Bill is due to return to the Commons for consideration of peers’ amendments on Tuesday.

A year ago today forces from the US, UK, France, Canada, the UAE and Qatar began military action to enforce UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, which authorised the establishment of a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians in Libya. Seven months later Colonel Gaddafi was dead and the National Transitional Council was the recognised authority in the country, although the Council’s authority has since been threatened by a declaration of autonomy by tribesmen in the eastern Cyrenaica region.

All the summits, council meetings and discussions on Greece in recent months will have been for nothing should the Greek government fail to meet the €14.4bn bond repayment which is due on Tuesday. With the IMF and EU approving the release of another tranche of loans in the wake of last week’s debt swap and the introduction of further austerity measures, indications are that Greece won’t go bust today.

Fans of obscure Parliamentary protocol are in for another treat this week, with The Queen set to make a ‘loyal address’ to MPs and peers in Westminster Hall on Tuesday. The speech, to mark the Diamond Jubilee, follows the ‘humble address’ presented by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this month.

Dawn comes early, with rosy fingers. When she appeared, the Chancellor put on his clothes and left his bed, then slung his Red Box above his shoulder, fastened his brogues upon his feet and went out from Number 11, like a god to look upon. This year’s Budget looks set to be defined by a single issue (or coin): whether Osborne decides to cut the 50p tax rate for top earners. It’s a hugely politically sensitive decision, but one that could be made easier in light of last week’s leaks from a HMRC report into the tax which is likely to reveal that the revenue raised since its introduction is substantially lower than initially expected.

Coincidentally, there are several protests scheduled for Wednesday: campaign groups UK Uncut and Right to Work will be camped outside No.10 and the Treasury respectively to demonstrate their opposition to the Government’s economic policies, while the RMT union is holding a ‘day of action’ in protest at plans to implement proposals from the McNulty review.

Public sector unions aren’t the only ones mobilising this week: journalists in the NUJ at the Financial Times stage a second walkout on Thursday in an ongoing dispute over a reportedly unsatisfactory pay offer.

EU defence ministers gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two day meeting to discuss the Common Security and Defence Policy, as well as the implications for Europe of the defence review in the United States. The meeting’s second day covers the latest developments in Syria and includes a political dialogue with Turkey, which has lately seen a substantial influx of refugees from its southern neighbour.

On Friday the UN Human Rights Council issues its final report of its 19th four-week session, which has also featured discussion on the situation in Syria. Syrian ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui walked out of an emergency meeting of the Council last month, accusing other countries of ‘inciting sectarianism’ and providing arms to rebels, and last week again claimed that ‘foreign powers’ were supporting the opposition which he claimed had rejected talks with the Syrian government.

With Scotland set to be a key issue for all three main parties this year, David Cameron is set to follow in the footsteps of Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in heading north for the spring conference of the Scottish branch of his party. Fresh from cementing one special relationship, expect the Prime Minister to turn his attention to a rather more fractious one this weekend.

Cabinet Ministers are being allowed out this weekend for some good old-fashioned conferencing, with Education Secretary Michael Gove addressing the Association of Schools and College Leaders’ annual shindig on Saturday and Energy Secretary Ed Davey taking part in the Guardian’s worthy-sounding ‘open weekend’ at Kings Place on Sunday.

Finally, something to look forward to on Sunday: It’s the start of British Summer Time.

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