Last year I was deeply embroiled in quizzing Sir Philip Green. The cause was the collapse of British Home Stores. No one would pretend it was anything other than a dire situation. 11,000 loyal employees lost their jobs and thousands of future pensioners risked losing a large chunk of the pension they had earned. The transactions which led to BHS going bust were the cause of huge concern.
The public demanded that in the interests of justice "something must be done". However the regulatory process is complex, long and far from certain.
I am delighted that a select committee enquiry was able to shed light on events. It was a forensic process and has helped the regulators bring about a resolution for the pensioners. Sir Philip has voluntarily contributed £363m from his own pocket. This will save future BHS pensioners from losing 10 per cent off their pension. It isn't a perfect solution but the results will be better for pensioners (and taxpayers) than would otherwise have been the case.
Select Committees, with MPs working together across parties can be one of the most effective aspects of Parliament. I am delighted we helped regulators achieve a better outcome for those who had been badly let down.
The news reached us Tuesday afternoon when most of the select committee (on both sides of the Commons chamber) were debating "productivity". This sounds incredibly dull – actually its critical. Throughout history it has been increases in “productivity” – the value of everything we produce divided by the number of people producing it – that drives increases in living standards.
Productivity isn’t the only economic issue on which to focus - right now I would rather have lower productivity than France than their dreadful levels of unemployment. However the UK has been “less productive” than the US and Germany all my life, and this matters. The ingredients are simple – better education and training, more innovation, more technology, better infrastructure and a more balanced economy. We are seeing ongoing significant investments in the UK which will help meet what is a hugely important long term challenge.