Julian Knight: McFall and his team must put consumers before soundbites

John McFall MP, the longstanding chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, has been named consumer champion of the year by Which? for "holding banks to account over the financial crisis". But what have all these chinwags with the bankers actually achieved, and what has the Treasury Select Committee done for me, a consumer, lately?

The good work on curtailing the march of charging cash-machines and greater transparency on credit-card statements dates way back to before the last election. In recent times, with the public eye on all things banking, the Committee has become a parody of itself, with members queueing up for their five-second soundbites. Sometimes I'm surprised MPs haven't started winking at the camera in 1970s American-TV style.

And what do we learn from these Select Committee sessions? That bankers live on a warped plain of existence and that politicians are egoists – you do surprise me. So what if the RBS chief's parents thinks he earns too much?

I know we all want to see bankers embarrassed (I'd like to have seen Fred the Shred in the stocks) but outside this there are some important issues that the Committee has seemingly forgotten about – such as the desertion of the poorer areas of the UK by banks, the activities of doorstep lenders, and, just a small moral leap away, the loan sharks. Now Mr McFall does have the right instincts on many issues and, sure, he's been a good chairman, but the Committee itself is not what it was. It has lost focus, blinded by the bright lights of extra publicity brought about by the financial crisis.

A hole in the pension safety net

I've long held fears for the future of the Pension Protection Fund. Last week, another two pension schemes entered the PPF, which was set up in 2004 to provide a safety net for workplace pension schemes in danger of collapse. Some 33,000 people qualify for PPF payments because their schemes have gone under. These are funded by those schemes' remaining assets and a levy on solvent workplace pension schemes.

The bare economics are that people are living longer, meaning fewer pension funds can cope; they fall back on the PPF, adding to the burden on surviving schemes. It's not hard to see where this is headed. Particularly as the Tories – the most-likely next government – seem opposed to the Government guaranteeing the PPF.

Pensions are such long-term investments that there can be a bit of creative accounting to keep the whole edifice propped up for the time being. But, eventually, I can't see how the PPF, as it stands, is sustainable. The likeliest scenario is that the money being paid to the members of schemes will be cut, undermining the finances of thousands of people in old age. The 2004 Pension Act, which set up the PPF, while necessary at the time, was only ever going to be a Band-Aid. The worry is that, because we are talking 10-, 20- or even 40-year timescales, ministers have little incentive to do anything. They can just pass it on. And with a ruinous public-sector deficit, whoever enters the Department for Work and Pensions after the election will no doubt be more concerned with cutting welfare bills than tackling pensions and shoring up or redesigning the PPF.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

    £65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits