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Retiring MPs will see a huge exodus of experience from the House of Commons at the election

John McFall, British politician and Chairman o...

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The next House of Commons will be a very different place. So far, almost 150 MPs have announced that they are not standing at the election, more than at anytime since before the Second World War. Rumours suggest that another 20 could decide not to stand on 6 May even at this very, very late stage.
Of course, the expenses scandal has been a huge factor in this unprecedented exodus but it is important not to fall into the trap of tarring every MP with that shameful brush. Many of those standing down have given years of valuable, untarnished service and will leave a gap that will need to be filled.
Take the trio of Labour MPs on the important Treasury Select Committee who are standing down, none of them touched by the expenses scandal. John McFall (pictured) has chaired that committee since 2001 and built up a reputation as a consumer champion and a scourge of the financial services sector. He was often dismissed in the early days of his chairmanship, almost patronised by big hitters in the banking sector but he came into his own with a series of highly critical but well argued reports on the aftermath of the financial crises of the last few years. He frightened many people in the financial services sector who would rather demonise him than talk to him. When they did bother to engage him they found him a surprisingly receptive listener with a clear understanding of their sector.
Two other long-standing Labour members of the 14 strong Treasury Select Committee are also standing down - Jim Cousins and Mark Tood. Also going is Liberal Democrat Colin Breed and one of the Tories, Sir Peter Viggers, who did get caught up in the expenses scandal. His rejected claim for a duck house became one of the most potent symbols of the whole saga.
If you also take into consideration that one of the other Labour members of the committee, Sally Keeble, has a marginal seat in Northampton you are suddenly looking at almost half the members of a key committee having to be replaced.
Two other MPs whose knowledge and understanding of the financial services sector will be missed in Parliament are Sir John Butterfill and John Greenway. The former was almost a permanent - and very diligent - member of the standing committee that scrutinised the Finance Bill every year after the Budget and also chaired the All Party Occupational Pensions Group. Sadly, he found himself almost unwittingly caught up in the expenses scandal and stands down with a reputation perhaps a little harshly tarnished.
John Greenway, a former insurance broker elected as Conservative MP for Ryedale in 1987, is standing down because he lost out in some major boundary changes in Yorkshire. He was a founding member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance & Financial Services and succeeded the initial chairman, the late Sir Robert McCrindle in 1992. Everyone who has dealt with that group since then has been impressed with John's grasp of the issues facing the sector. He will be a hard act to follow.
I know it is fashionable to knock MPs, and goodness knows many of them deserve the severe criticism that is thrown their way, but it is important to note that there are many who have a decent record of public service. The anti-MP mood has now gone so far that many are saying that no former MPs should be made Lords after the election. What blinkered nonsense. Who would argue that the House of Lords (while it still exists - an altogether different issue) wouldn't be strengthened if John McFall and John Greenway were among its members?
Having said all that, the House of Commons desperately needs fresh blood, a new generation of MPs who have some sense of understanding why the public are angry over the appalling abuses of a very lax system and who understand why much greater transparency is a pre-requisite if politics and politicians are to stand any chance of rebuilding respect.
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