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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
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

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

    Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness