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

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

    Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star