A whole range of issues concerning the banks and financial institutions have been a major focus of my activity here in Westminster over the last few days.
(1) The takeover of Standard Life Bank by Barclays, announced this week, although not unexpected, will affect almost 300 jobs in Edinburgh. There doesn't seem to be any suggeston of job losses - indeed, the tie-up with Barclays might lead to more work for Edinburgh - but I want to know more about the company's plans for the future, and I'm talking with Barclays Head of UK Retail Operations about that later today.
(2) The dispute which has arisen between Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, and the Lloyds bank which funds it, is deeply worrying to the many charities who receieve funding from the foundation. There's an obvious UK dimension, because of the big government shareholding in the bank - so I've asked the Treasury to intervene, and also raised the issue directly with Chancellor Alistair Darling earlier this week.
(3) Complaints have come in about the Bank of Scotland's changes to its overdraft charges, which could lead to people who overdraw by even just a few pounds, even an authorised one, having to pay £31 a month in charges. BoS of course is now owed by Lloyds TSB, so again there is a government interest, and a lot of MPs have raised this issue with the government as well;
(4) Lastly, but by no means least, there is a growing debate about the future structure of UK banking now that they appear to be coming out of the crisis. A current hot topic is whether banks should be broken up, and linked to that is the immediate future of Northern Rock. I have strongly supported the idea that Northern Rock should be brought back into the 'mutual' sector, to provide a real alternative for the consumer, and I'll be pushing for that today if I get a chance to do so.
On a different issue, I also see that the 'Kelly' report on MPs expenses and allowances has been widely leaked today. My view is clear - given all that has been revealed over the last few months, MPs should accept Kelly's recommendations in their entirety, and put them into effect as soon as possible. I'll probably comment in more detail once the actual report is published (which was meant to be next week, but as they have been leaked so widely, I think it would be best if the report was published now).