MY WEEK - 31st  Edition
September 19, 2016

Monday 12th September

This morning I'm on my way to Berlin with the Treasury Select Committee for my first foreign visit. We'll be talking to bankers about Brexit and the consequences for the UK financial sector.

Meanwhile, you can read my lastest weekly column in The National by scrolling down on the right-hand tab. This week I'm writing about the benefits new oil discoveries could bring to Scotland.
Photo: The National

Arriving in Berlin, our first appointment is a meeting with Jens Spahn CDU MP, Parliamentary State Secretary, at the Finance Ministry.  

Then a meeting with Ingrid Arndt-Brauer SDP MP, Chair of the Bundestag Finance Committee.

Tuesday 13 September

In the morning our first meeting was with Dr Thomas Keidel, Director of Financial Market Relations, Deutscher Sparkassen.

Our final Meeting in Berlin was with Kevin Heidenreich, Head of Department, Foreign Trade and Trade Promotion of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.
This was a very successful visit.

Then on to Rome to see how the Italians feel about Brexit.

Wednesday 14 September

Our meetings in Rome today started with Angelo Apponi (Director General) and Nicoletta Giusto (Head of International Relations) of the Commissione Nazionale per le Societa e la Borsa (CONSOB), Italy's Financial Markets regulator.

On to a lunch meeting with Jill Morris, the British Ambassador to Italy.

In the afternoon we met with Dottoressa Valeria Sannucci, Deputy Governor, Banca D'Italiia (Central Bank of Italy); with Gelsomina Vigliotti, Director-General of the International Financial Relations Department, at the Economy and Finance Ministry; with Maria Cannata, Director-General, Public Debt, of the Treasury Department, at the Economy and Finance Ministry; and with Yoram Gutgeld, Prime Minister Renzi's Economic Advisor.

Our final meeting in Rome was with Elio Lannutti at the Associazione Difesa Utenti Servizi Bancari e Finanziari (ADUSBEF), the Consumer Association specialising in banks & financial services.

Then back to London in the evening, well pleased with the success of the delegation.

Thursday 15 September

Following my visit to Germany and Italy, I returned to Parliament to take part in a backbench debate on the consequences of Quantitative Easing.

Quantitative Easing is a monetary policy instrument which consists in the acquisition of Treasury and corporate bonds by the Bank of England and was launched by the Bank of England in the wake of the financial crisis. This programme has been recently given a new boost by the Bank following the result of the EU referendum, and its constant use and the consequences of thereof raise a number of questions which were discussed during that debate.

You can watch my intervention here:

Earlier that day I had questioned the new Business Secretary on the financial implications of the deal  between the Government and the French energy company EDF, regarding the construction of  two new untested and untried nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C.

I wanted to make sure that taxpayers were not being exposed to construction risks in view of this new agreement.

Following a two-month project review, the Prime Minister had decided to authorise her Government's plans for the construction of this nuclear power plant in Somerset.  The much-delayed project has been criticised by energy and economic experts for its costs, EDF's own poor financial situation, and the lack of guarantees in regard to the functioning. I will continue to campaign against this project, hoping to influence the government to change its position.

You can watch my question and the Secretary's answer here below :

Read my weekly column in East Lothian Courier by scrolling down the right side.

Friday 16 September

Home to East Lothian in time for the WASPI Local Day of Action.  
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is a campaign group which fights the injustice done to women born on or after 6 April 1951, whose lives have been been compromised by the government rise in the state pension age. For many women this has had very serious consequences. They planned their retirement on the basis that they would receive a pension at 60 and are now struggling to make ends meet. One of them told me that she is facing a pension shortfall of £39,000. She has already had to sell her home. 

Following an advertising and leafleting campaign we were delighted to welcome 15 constituents affected by the change to their state pension age to the drop-in session at the constituency office. More phoned in the course of the afternoon, and telephone calls are still coming in.

I was absolutely delighted by the turnout. Too many women have resigned themselves to hardship as a result of the government’s decision to change the state pension age from 60 to 65 without any personal warning and or transitional provision. This is an outrageous situation. All over the UK women are writing to their MPs and taking part in public protests, and I can assure my constituents that the WASPI campaign is gathering cross-party support in Parliament.

The session resulted in the setting up of an East Lothian branch of WASPI, which is planning to spread the word by writing to Women's Institutes, setting up a stall at the next Haddington Farmers’ Market, and attending the WASPI demonstration at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 29 September at 12.25pm, carrying the banner we have commissioned for them.
I ended the day with a delicious dinner at Jo's Kitchen before going on to the Museum of Flight at East Fortune for the Lammermuir Festival's exciting programme of contemporary Music and Film in the Concorde Hangar.

Saturday 17 September

Another great concert from the Lammermuir Festival today, this time in St. Martin's Inveresk, where we heard a wide-ranging programme from the National Youth Choir of Scotland, ending with Vivaldi's Gloria, which always raises the spirit. 

I see that the historic interior of St. Michael’s is in very poor repair, including the stained glass windows, and the congregation urgently needs to raise £40,000 this year towards an estimated budget of £366,000. I urge everyone who loves St. Michael’s to support this worthy cause.

Sunday 18 September

Tonight to the final concert of the Lammermuir Festival. What will I do with my evenings now?

It was a splendid close to ten days of beautiful music in beautiful places. Lars Vogt is a truly charismatic conductor and a wonderful concert pianist - the Royal Northern Sinfonia are lucky to have him. 

And the staff and volunteers had good reason to rejoice. Not only did they exceed their income targets; they opened their copy of The Observer newspaper today to find that the music critic had given the Festival five stars!
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