The major set piece event of the autumn in parliament was held this week when the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered his bi-annual update on the state of the economy. As is always the case, he tried to highlight the positive aspects in this statement. However, the reality of six years of Conservative rule is massive national debt, declining rate of growth, and an unknown, possibly ruinous Brexit bill.
Following the release of the statement the Institute for Fiscal Studies have pointed out that by 2021, real wages in the UK will still not have recovered to their 2008 level. This means that between 2008 and 2021, people will have become poorer. If ever there was a damning indictment of Westminster rule by the Conservatives and Labour, this is it.
The Chancellor tried to give some support to infrastructure projects such as broadband and digital signage on the railways, but it was all a little underwhelming. Previous Conservative leadership contestant Sajid Javid had floated the idea of spending £100 billion on infrastructure to help boost the UK's productivity in this era of low interest rates. However, as with many ambitious ideas, this was ignored by the Chancellor.
Very little in this Autumn Statement did anything for the lowest paid or those who have to survive on benefits. I hope that we shall see more for the people who are suffering the most in future statements and perhaps a few less corporation tax cuts and personal allowance raises, which primarily benefit the wealthiest.
BEIS - Industrial Strategy + Corporate Governance
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee held two evidence sessions this week. The first one was a roundtable session with a range of industry experts discussing what should be in the upcoming Industrial Strategy being prepared by the Government. This free form discussion generated some excellent ideas which will be fed into our report to be released in the near future.
After this session we met again on Wednesday to hear evidence for our corporate governance enquiry. Corporate Governance has been a major issue in the news recently. As was demonstrated by our recent inquiries into Mike Ashley and Philip Green, the issue of unaccountable executives is one that needs to be addressed. Consumers lose faith in corporations when business leaders are seen as unaccountable. We need stricter guidelines and better governance to improve outcomes in society and that is what our enquiry is trying to frame out. As with the Industrial Strategy report, this will be coming out in the near future and I will share the link when it is released.
Target Ovarian Cancer - Freedom From Torture - Energy UK 'Big Switch Drop In'
Many third sector organisations look for support from MPs to promote their work and many constituents ask me to attend events organised by charities as well. This week I attended events supporting Target Ovarian Cancer, the Big Energy Switch and a new report from Freedom From Torture. There are so many events in parliament it is impossible to attend them all, but I always do my best to get along to as many as possible.
Entrepreneurial Spark and Surgeries
On Friday I was back in the constituency to hold another three surgeries, one in Ratho, one in Kirkliston and one in South Queensferry. After these I went to visit Entrepreneurial Spark based at Gogarburn in my constituency.
Entrepreneurial Spark is one of the most successful entrepreneur development schemes in Scotland. Successful companies developed at their 'hatchery' have an 88% success rate after 3 years, which is a great deal better than the average of 50% for new businesses. Moreover, their person focused development planned greatly impressed me and I am sure there is a lot that can be learned from their approach that could be adopted by much larger businesses and institutions. Hopefully we shall see many more businesses emerging from ES, including ones that put a focus on good corporate governance and respect for employees.
Next week I will be holding a surgery in my office so if you wish to see me, please make an appointment with my team by phoning the office on 0131 56 2402.