Like huge swaths of the country, our Fellowship Programme grinded to a sudden halt in March in the face the coronavirus crisis. For reasons that will be obvious to readers, sending MPs and Peers to meet with businesses is not sustainable during these times.
Parliament is now in Easter recess and will return on 21 April. We will continue to follow Parliament and government advice, resuming the programme only when it is completely safe to do so.
We managed to squeeze in three visits in March before being forced to stop. Despite the limited number, the visits covered a broad range of topics: finance, manufacturing and the charity sector.
SNP Chief Whip to Caterpillar
Usually when we design a Fellowship, it comes from a parliamentarian approaching us with a specific topic or sector they want to learn about. This could be based on an interest they have, a type of business prominent in their constituency, or an area where increased knowledge would complement their parliamentary work.
Patrick Grady MP has taken a slightly different approach with his Fellowship. Rather than focusing on one sector or business type, he is taking a general view of UK industry and is most interested in garnering a clearer understanding on the links between industry and policymaking. This approach has taken him to a mix of different businesses: from arts and culture to food and drink to logistics.
This time Patrick, who is the MP for Glasgow North and the SNP’s Chief Whip, went to Peterlee in County Durham where Caterpillar make their articulated trucks. He was able to hear – and indeed see – more about Caterpillar’s manufacturing process. Articulated trucks are one of Caterpillar’s core products and are used around the world on construction and mine sites. This visit gave Patrick insight to how the Peterlee site is important to global as well as local and national economy.
Fortification from Fraudulent Finance
On 12 March 2020 Chris Elmore MP, who has been an MP since winning the Ogmore by-election in 2016 and became an opposition whip the same year, met with the representatives from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s conduct regulator financial services firms and financial markets. The core topic of the meeting was for Chris to get a thorough understanding of the work done by the FCA to tackle fraud in financial services.
Senior representatives from the FCA walked Chris through their work in protecting against pensions and other investment scams and online banking safety. Thousands of consumers every year fall victim to scams every year making this area a priority for the regulator.
The FCA takes a multi-faceted approach to tackling these violations. This includes investigating firms, intermediaries and other wealth managers where there is suggestion of wrongdoing, increasing resilience in both firms and consumers against payment fraud, and ensuring consumers are reimbursed where fraud does take place. They also have an ongoing PR campaign called “ScamSmart”. The campaign aims to increase scepticism of cold contact and for consumers to recognise some of the tactics used by scammers.
Chris’ Fellowship is focussed on deepening his overall understanding of the banking and financial sectors and to learn more about the sector’s approach to money management and financial fraud. Tied to this, he is also hoping to gain an understanding of what banks are doing for corporate social responsibility. The finance system, be it through pensions, investments or consumer banking, is something each one of Chris’ constituents will encounter.
Other visits in March
In addition to the two visits above, Baroness Wheeler visited the Royal Star and Garter, a charity that provides care to veterans. As an opposition spokesperson for health, this visit is relevant and will assist Baroness Wheeler’s parliamentary work.