The BEIS Committee spent two days in snowy Stockholm at the start of this week, meeting business leaders and local politicians. The aim of the visit was to learn how the Swedish Government has worked with industry to develop an Industrial Strategy and a system of corporate governance. Sweden is a highly successful medium sized country with strong growth and productivity rates which outstrip the UK. It was a fascinating visit, and gave the whole committee insights which I am sure will prove valuable when we come to produce our report on corporate governance.
Chilcot Inquiry and WASPI
On my return to Westminster there were two SNP led debates in the House of Commons. The first one related to the Chilcot Inquiry and the contradiction between the information to given to the public and the private correspondence between Tony Blair and the US government. The SNP wanted the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to further its investigation into the lessons learned from the Chilcot Inquiry and to further consider the specific contrast between the public and private policy positions and presentation of intelligence. Sadly Labour and Conservatives refused to countenance any further investigation into the biggest failure of British foreign policy in recent years. I find this deeply concerning, and something which does not bode well for future involvement in the region.
After the Chilcot debate there was an attempt to get the Government to reconsider it's policy on the acceleration of of the increase in the state pension age for women born in the 1950s. The SNP's motion called for the Government to consider an affordable solution that would slow down the process and give women affected time to bolster their finances and explore further options to improve their financial situations. Sadly, once again, the Conservative party marshalled their slim majority of MPs to vote down the SNP motion, displaying a lack of willingness to engage constructively on this important issue.
On Thursday however, there was limited success when a motion was passed that said the Government had not considered the situation of WASPI women. This means we can return the debate to Westminster hall and gives us a further attempt to convince the Conservatives to modify their stance and provide these women with adequate support, given the situation the Government has created.
RBS Branch - Davidson's Mains
On Thursday, the Royal Bank of Scotland also announced plans to close half of all local branches in Edinburgh. This includes their Davidson's Mains branch, which lies within my constituency. Recent years have seen the erosion of local banking services, which has included the closure of two other banks in the Edinburgh West area. This means that in the very western edge of my constituency, local people have just one branch of a high street bank within walking distance.
I am very concerned about the impact this will have on the local community - especially vulnerable individuals and the elderly, who tend to use local services more heavily. Local bank branches used to form the back-bone of any high street in local communities, and it is worrying that this has been so heavily eroded and may have an impact on other local businesses.
As soon as I learned of their plans, I asked RBS for a meeting to discuss the closure in more detail. I will be meeting with representatives of the bank before Christmas and will provide a further update after that meeting has taken place.
Finally, this week I held my 100th surgery since being elected. It is a great honour to serve the people of Edinburgh West and surgeries are the best opportunity for me to meet with constituents and hear about their concerns. That is why it is very important to me to be back in Edinburgh every Friday for my weekly surgery, though it does sometimes mean missing some parliamentary sessions. Seeing constituents, and working on their individual cases, forms a huge portion of my role.
Next week's surgeries are in Muirhouse (9.30 AM) and Drylaw (11.00 AM). I will be holding my usual Friday office surgery on Friday 16th December and then there will be an additional surgery on Wednesday 21st December at 10:30am. Further details of my office opening hours over Christmas will also appear on my website in the coming weeks.