Julian Knight: McFall and his team must put consumers before soundbites
Sunday 17 January 2010
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.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar