Pay Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1991.

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Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Minister of State (HM Treasury)

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor meets the Governor of the Bank of England from time to time to discuss a variety of matters.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Is the Minister aware that the Governor's 17 per cent. wage increase on an already large salary has been overtaken by the rise for the boss of British Telecom, who received 43 per cent., for the boss of National Power, who received 58 per cent. and for the boss of British Gas, who received 66 per cent. in what has become a fat cat greed race? In yet another pathetic answer on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that he deplored it, but he was not going to do anything about it. Why not?

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Minister of State (HM Treasury)

The salary of the Governor of the Bank of England—that is the point of the question—is determined under the bank's 1946 charter by non-executive members of the court of directors. It is not for the Government to approve the pay of the Governor or the bank's staff.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Cambridge South West

Although I recognise that it is important that company chairmen should set an example in the present economic climate, has my hon. Friend heard of any examples of a reduction in income for some of the very rich people who seem to be seeking jobs in a future Labour Government? I am thinking of people like Mr. John Mortimer and Mr. Melvyn Bragg. Have they set an example?

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Minister of State (HM Treasury)

I do not think that I can answer that, given the names mentioned by my hon. Friend. However, the Government's pay policy is clear: pay awards should be negotiated on their merits according to the needs of recruitment, retention and affordability. People at the top of large industries and concerns have been appointed for their acumen. They should be sensitive to the needs of the times. I do not know whether the people who have been approached by the Labour party have such sensitivity, but I doubt it.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott , Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Does the Minister agree that although the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said earlier that big pay rises were the exception rather than the rule, a recent survey commissioned by the CBI shows that pay rises for top directors are on average running above inflation? How will unit labour costs be reduced when bosses are setting that sort of example?

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Minister of State (HM Treasury)

I repeat that the Government would expect pay awards to be negotiated on their merits. The Government have repeatedly emphasised the need for general moderation in pay settlement levels. That really should apply from top to bottom.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

Am I alone in getting rather tired of the politics of envy? If I were employed by a firm, I would want the firm to do well and make money and I would want my boss to be properly paid.

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Minister of State (HM Treasury)

I am not sure whether that is a question, but I must say that it is an admirable expression of my hon. Friend's sentiments.