Monday 13th March
I was on the train to London this morning. Meanwhile my column appears in The National newspaper every Monday. This week I am writing about the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
‘Spreadsheet Phil’ lost his political marbles with tax on White Van Man
IT was meant to be a steady-as-you-go Budget, if not a plain dull affair. There was even talk in the lobbies of an early General Election to wipe out Labour, launched on the back of Theresa May triggering Brexit this week and Chancellor “Spreadsheet Phil” Hammond showing the Tories had the national finances tightly under control. But not any more. Phil forgot to take his eyes off the spreadsheet long enough to consider the disaster of breaking a Conservative manifesto pledge not to raise National Insurance. So goodbye early election and goodbye Hammond’s political reputation.
Within hours of last Wednesday’s Budget shambles, 10 Downing Street was briefing against the Chancellor and landing him with the blame. Meanwhile angry Tory backbenchers set up an app to coordinate rebellion unless the hike in NI charges is reversed. The Prime Minister then announced a “delay” in implementing the changes, doubtless to give the Treasury time to find the cash from somebody else’s pocket. True, Number 10 must have signed off on the main lines of the Budget. But as the Red Book – which outlines the main Budget proposals — was barely half the length of a normal one, you have to ask if Number 10 was asleep on the job, or if the Prime Minister has merely decided to stick the blame on Hammond. Probably a bit of both.
You can read the full article HERE
At Westminster the main business was the continuing debate on Philip Hammond's Budget.
In the afternoon there was an emergency meeting of the Treasury Select Committee. The meeting was private but as everyone now knows it concerned the failure of the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Charlotte Hogg (sister of Quintin) to disclose a conflict of interest because her brother held a senior post at Barclays Bank, for which she would be responsible.
She subsequently resigned.
Tuesday 14th March
A busy day! It started at 8.30am when I convened a meeting of MPs who represent constituencies where the TSB are closing local branches, as is the case in Tranent. We decided to press our opposition to this at the highest level of the bank.
Then it was on to the Treasury Select Committee to hear the Office for Budget Responsibility's response to Philip Hammond's Budget.
You can watch the Committee meeting HERE
Later I made a speech in the Commons on the Budget. You can watch that HERE
In the evening, in between voting, I was pleased to chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia's public meeting, where the Catalan Foreign Affairs Minister, Raul Romeva, explained his government's plans to hold a referendum on independence and the opposition they are meeting from the Spanish Government.
It was a packed house as Raul addressed an audience of MPs, Peers, academics and the general public.
You can watch a Catalan News Agency interview with Raul and myself HERE
Wednesday 15th March
In the morning I met with Gareth Rees QC, Executive Director of Enforcement at the Financial Conduct Authority.
After catching up with Parliamentary and Constituency work, I addressed members of the Small and Medium Enterprises Alliance before they started their meeting at Westminster.
Thursday 16th March
My column appeared in the East Lothian Courier today. Scroll down on the right-hand side to read it.
Friday 17th March
Tonight's book launch in Aberdeen was a great success.
I introduced my new book with Stephen Boyd and Katherine Trebeck, Tackling Timorous Economics, while Lesley Riddoch talked about her latest view on the Nordic nations with Paddy Bort, McSmörgåsbord.
The question-and-answer session afterwards resulted in a stimulating discussion, and the books sold out.
Thanks to our publishers, Luath Press, and to Grant Thoms, editor of Scots Independent, who chaired the session.