Work and pensions select committee chairman and veteran Birkenhead MP Frank Field has decided to quit Labour over the party’s failure to act on anti-Semitism and bullying allegations.
The MP, who has been instrumental in inquiries into defined benefit pension transfers, the collapse of BHS and Carillion, the FCA’s approach to Sipp supervision, and the government’s cold-calling ban, has given up the Labour whip and will now sit as an independent.
The cross-party politicians he leads on the committee are currently investigating pension costs and transparency, and will begin hearing oral evidence next week.
In a letter to opposition chief whip Nick Brown, Field accuses the Labour leadership of “becoming a force for anti-Semitism in British politics”.
He writes: “The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values. It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party. This issue alone compels me to resign the whip.”
Field also cites a “culture of intolerance, nastiness, and intimidation” in the party, and criticises the leadership for failing to act on bullying allegations in constituency branches.
He will continue to be a member of the Labour party, but represent Birkenhead as an independent MP.
The work and pensions committee confirmed that Field is not forced to leave his position on the committee because he has resigned the whip.
There is no effect on the Chair’s position, he hasn’t resigned the Labour Party.
— Work & Pensions Committee (@CommonsWorkPen) August 30, 2018
Former pensions minister and Royal London policy director Steve Webb says: “It is vitally important that Frank Field’s decision to resign the Labour whip does not affect his role as chair of the work and pensions committee.
“Although we do not see eye to eye on every issue, there is no doubt that he is one of the most knowledgeable MPs in parliament when it comes to pensions. In particular, I am sure that his pressure on the former owner of BHS played an important part in ensuring that BHS pensioners got a better outcome. I hope that MPs of all parties will support Frank Field in retaining this key role”
Hargreaves Lansdown head of retirement policy Tom McPhail also backed Field to stay.
It is a good thing Frank Field is continuing as DWP Committee chair, he is a powerful force in parliament challenging vested interests and speaking up for the many
— Tom McPhail (@PensionsMonkey) August 30, 2018