Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Westminster Diary

Welcome to our round-up of snippets from the corridors of power.

John McFall
Would you give a bank loan to this man?

These are frenetic times for the Commons Treasury Committee, which has, in a flying start to 2009, spent many entertaining hours grilling bankers, central bankers, financial market regulators, masters (or should that be ex-masters) of the hedge fund universe, and other players in the credit crunch. Often open-mouthed with astonishment, either at the facts revealed, or at the sheer brass neck of their witnesses, the committee is presided over by former Glasgow head teacher and Labour MP John McFall. He's appalled by the gung-ho attitude to lending which he believes led to the crisis...

He can remember the rather more austere days when young couples humbly petitioned banks for a mortgage, and waited in fear and trembling for their magisterial verdict.... "way back when I was getting married I applied for what we in Scotland call a room and kitchen - it was 850. And the good directors of Dumbarton Building Society saw fit to refuse me because I was too much of a risk." A snub at the time. But now he waxes positively sentimental about the building society bureaucrats who turned him down. Happy days.


Eurosceptics should look away now. Here is Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon briefing MPs on his latest visit to Brussels: "I attended the EU Transport Council in Brussels on 9 December. The Council discussed the regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004 which established the Single European Sky (SES)." Is there nothing those eurocrats don't want to take over?


Truculent youths had better watch out too. Hazel Blears has got you in her sights. The relentlessly upbeat communities secretary is writing a blog on her department's website, in which she gives full rein to her enthusiasm for "empowering" the young and disaffected. We are all for injecting a bit of get up and go into the nation's youth but we are not sure she would get planning permission for her latest crusade. "I am angry when I meet young people, especially in the inner-cities, who know nothing of the world beyond the square mile where they live, who've never been a theatre," she writes.


Or maybe not. The noble ones were debating equality the other day when Tory peer Lord Ferrers thought he had stumbled across a clear case of gender bias. "My Lords, is it a fact that female Members of the government Front Bench get a dress allowance? While one can see that this is an admirable thing, does the noble Baroness not think that it is rather unfair on the poor men, who do not have such an allowance, and can one not see the disadvantages of their not having a similar allowance?".

Labour's Baroness Royall, who as leader of the house has bigger fish to fry at the moment, was happy to put him right. "My Lords, at a time of economic recession, it would probably be remiss of me to say that it would be a jolly nice thing, but I can categorically say that we do not get a dress allowance."


Former transport minister Tom Harris long ago discovered the joys of blogging. Now he's learning it can pay. Recently he's switched webhosts and for the first time is accepting advertising on his web page. All revenues are, he says, going to his local Glasgow South constituency party. But there are limits to what adverts the Labour MP will accept, for instance condom adverts he says would be fine... but an advert for the Tory Party.. "I think that's where I'd draw the line."

Union Flag
Have you seen this flag lately?

Remember when Gordon Brown lifted the ban on public buildings flying the union flag, as part of his drive to boost "Britishness"? So does Diary reader David McKay, of Frome, Somerset. "Why is it then that none of the MoD Buildings around Bath and Bristol fly the union flag?," he writes. Come to think of it has anyone seen the union flag fluttering from a public building recently? If you see one do take a snap and send it in. There won't be any prizes but you will be fulfilling your patriotic duty.

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