Monday 16th January
My column appears in The National newspaper every Monday. This week, of course, it had to focus on the forthcoming inauguration of President Trump.
Here's what The Donald might have to say on Inauguration Day
THE National has come into possession of an advance draft of the inauguration speech to be given in Washington DC on Friday by President Trump. We can’t vouch for its authenticity but we are publishing in the public interest:
My fellow Americans. It’s fantastic to be here. Really fantastic. I stand before you today proud – but not humbled – as the 45th president of the United States. I follow in the footsteps of Jefferson, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, and Kennedy. I richly deserve this honour. In fact, intend to become even richer as a result. Except you won’t know about it because I still refuse to publish my tax returns. And you should too, folks. That’s your constitutional right and I intend to stick up for the constitution regardless of how the Supreme Court votes.
You can read the full article HERE
It will be Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday 27 January, so I took time to sign the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Remembrance Book when I arrived at the House of Commons.
We must never forget what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s when anti-Semitism and racism shifted seamlessly from talk of removing the Jews from the Third Reich to genocide. It speaks to us today when we see racism against migrants on the rise across Europe. Never again!
Tuesday 17th January
A number of constituents have contacted me to express deep concern at the way the Home Office is handling the cases of people who have been horrifically abused and fled to us for safety. The UK has a proud history of taking care of people in need, but new research by Freedom from Torture has shown that mistakes in the handling of medical evidence are letting down some of the most vulnerable people.
The research project revealed that over three-quarters of the torture survivors had their claims wrongly rejected by caseworkers who mishandled and rejected expert evidence. A judge overturned these decisions on appeal, but when so much is at stake it shouldn’t have to go that far.
Accordingly I wrote to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, asking her to take action to improve asylum decision-making for torture survivors, including insisting on compliance with the department's own policy and using the training they have developed, but never rolled out.
The report can be found here: https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/provingtorturereport
In the morning I attended the Treasury Select Committee, which discussed Solvency with representatives from the Association of British Insurers, Lloyds, Aviva, the Prudential, Price Waterhouse Cooper, KPMG, and the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries.
You can watch the Committee proceedings HERE
In the evening I hosted a briefing on the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Business Banking, which I chair. It was attended by MPs, small business customers who have suffered at the hands of the banks, people from the regulatory bodies and representatives of the finance industry, including the banks.
The APPG is now planning an inquiry into the handling of small and medium business account holders by the banks, and will be recommending what regulation and remedies could be introduced to aid them.
Afterwards we continued the discussion informally at a reception in Parliament.
Here I am with representatives of the Social Stock Exchange, who kindly sponsored the event, and APPG secretary, Heather Buchanan.
The Social Stock Exchange provides access to the world’s first regulated exchange dedicated to businesses and investors seeking to achieve a positive social and environmental impact through their activities.
Wednesday 18th January
During questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, the Prime Minister was delivering a speech elsewhere outlining her plans for a Hard Brexit.
So I took the opportunity to question him on her statement that Britain would still be paying the EU for years to come.
You can watch the exchange HERE
Later, at the afternoon's Treasury Select Committee, we discussed the work of the Payments System Regulator.
You can watch the meeting HERE
Then, in the Debate on exiting the EU, I put it to the Minister in charge, David Davis, that Theresa May had called for magnanamity in the debate, with Remainers respecting the Leave vote.
I put to him, accordingly, that the UK government had a good reason to respect Scotland's wishes.
You can watch the exchange HERE
The Ombudsman Service is one of the leading providers of consumer redress in the UK. At the end of the day I was pleased to attend a briefing on the redress they can make available to the people of East Lothian.
Ross Anderson, Chair of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, had kindly invited me to a reception at the Scottish Parliament that evening, hosted by Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but Angela went along to represent me.
I strongly support the SCNP and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland in their efforts to expand the number of National Parks in Scotland. At present we only have two - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the Cairngorms - so there is definitely room for more.
Here is Ross Anderson speaking at the reception.
Thursday 19th January
The Financial Inclusion Commission is an independent campaigning body made up of parliamentarians and experts, whose aim is to promote financial inclusion on the public policy agenda. This morning I attended its meeting to help develop its work.
Financial exclusion remains a significant challenge for 21st century Britain, a nation which prides itself on being a global leader in financial services. But more needs to be done, with over 2 million people still without access to a bank account.
Then it was time for an early departure for Edinburgh and on to the Ravelston House Hotel for the Old Musselburgh Club Burns Supper, where I delivered the Immortal Memory.
This was a great night, with speeches, poetry and song - and of course Roger Knox's iconic rendering of 'Tam o' Shanter'.
On Thursdays my weekly article appears in the East Lothian Courier. To read it, scroll down on the right-hand side.
Friday 20th January
Yes, I did watch the Trump inauguration, with a heavy heart.
Sunday 22nd January
Today I was in London to meet an old friend and colleague, Sir Terry Farrell.
Together we built the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (1995), while I was chair of Economic Development for Edinburgh Council.
He also turned the Dean Orphanage into a new national gallery of modern art, which opened in 1999 and is now called Modern Two.
The inspiration for the Dean is San Pancrazio, the Marino Marini museum in Florence, which I visited in the 1980s. Just as Marini gifted his drawings and maquettes to San Pancrazio, so did Eduardo Paolozzi to the Dean, where you can see a recreation of his studio, and some monumental examples of his work.