Simon English: We need a bold move on pay, not just tough talking


There's been a clampdown on runaway executive pay coming any day since at least 1980. It is not obvious that David Cameron's moves finally to get some action will be any more successful.

Most large investors are absentee landlords. The City fund manager invests our money rather than his. If you oversee a pension fund worth billions, it isn't particularly concerning to you whether a chief executive is paid £2m or £10m. The only thing you care about is the performance of the shares, which dictates how well your fund does, which in turn influences your own pay. Such fund managers are executives themselves. It is not remotely in their personal interest to see executive pay fall.

One thing the Government could do is to take a firm grip on pay at the banks the Treasury had to bail out. Since it is the biggest investor in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, by cutting pay here for directors the Government could begin at least to reverse the trend.

It might lose a talented executive here or there to a hedge fund, but at least we'd then get to see whether the folk on the next rung down the ladder are really any worse than the departed geniuses.

If Cameron were serious, he could be bold. In all likelihood, he is planning to give the impression of being bothered while hoping the economy recovers sufficiently before the next election for boardroom pay to be forgotten.