WESTMINSTER went back to work this week, which, for me, meant trudging through London’s rainy streets from King’s Cross Station down to the House of Commons because of the Tube strike.
The dispute is about safety and overcrowding on the subway, which is sardine-packed at the best of times. With no Tube trains, the buses were packed too, plus the whole metropolitan road system was gridlocked. So a quick, 60-minute hike across London it was. I’m not complaining: the walk was good for me, body and soul.
Parliament was rather empty when I got there aside from a strong contingent of SNP members who had come down over the weekend. Here at Westminster we are still in the 'phoney war', waiting for the Conservative Government to make up its mind about what kind of Brexit to go for.
I arrived in London just as the pound crashed yet again on the foreign exchange market after the Prime Minister seemed to imply there was going to be a hard Brexit. Every time the pound falls, your foreign holidays get dearer and everything we import costs more. It’s no wonder that folk have been borrowing on their credit cards in record amounts. The average family credit card debt is now £2,452, which will take 25 years to shift if you make the minimum monthly repayment. Keep your fingers crossed interest rates don’t go up.
Talking of the fragile UK economy, one of my projects in Parliament in 2017 is to change the law to give small businesses – our best job creators – more redress when dealing with big banks. Since the Credit Crunch of 2008, tens of thousands of potentially viable small firms have been forced into liquidation unnecessarily by fat-cat bankers. Sometimes the bank forced the small company to take out expensive and unnecessary interest rate insurance – only to see interest rates crash to zero. Or, in the case of RBS, pulling the plug on firms because they were “insolvent” according to the bank’s questionable low valuation of the property against which its loan was secured – only to see RBS seize the property and sell it off for a handsome return to generate cash for the bank.
I’m campaigning to create a tribunal system that will give smaller firms fairer redress against big banks, and to force bankers to have a legal 'duty of care' towards their small business customers. Happy 2017!