Public Limited Companies (Financial Regulation)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:02 pm on 13th March 2003.

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Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Conservative, Huntingdon 3:02 pm, 13th March 2003

My hon. Friend makes an important point, with which I totally agree. There have been many surveys over the years on alternatives to stock options. None came up with a scheme as flexible or as consistently useful as the issuing of stock options.

The only evidence in the report for the position that stock options are a bad idea is the statement that in the United States "people could get most of their remuneration in share payments 'and even pay suppliers in share options'". However, those points simply do not follow. Paying directors in shares is an established practice in this country. It is completely different from issuing stock options to directors and has even been recommended as good practice in previous corporate governance reviews.

Existing statutes ban directors from buying tradeable options in their own companies, and existing corporate governance rules disapprove of non-executive directors holding stock options in their own companies. Will the Financial Secretary tell us whether there are any proposals to change current practice as a result of the report? I have not heard of any such proposals, but I would be interested to know whether there are any.

It is important to keep in mind that the size of companies may be very relevant. My hon. Friend alluded to that in his intervention. As a non-executive in an alternative investment market company—I accept that such companies are not subject to the combined code on corporate governance—you can be issued with stock options, as they are often offered as part of the overall reward for becoming involved in what may be a much riskier type of company.