Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FTSE100 CEO pay falls again as Vince Cable makes an impact

The Manifest–MM&K Annual Survey of Executive Pay shows that the Shareholder Spring has clearly had an effect on remuneration committee thinking. This has been galvanized by regulatory intervention to reinforce investors actions…

The latest survey hows that top pay awards [for FTSE100 CEOs] have reduced for two consecutive years: by -7% in 2013 and -5% in 2012. The findings are from research and analysis of the latest annual reports of FTSE100 companies…

Regulatory intervention has had a galvanising effect. Vince Cable’s efforts and threats of further legislation have helped in the reduction in CEO pay.

We are grateful to Mark Pack for this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Briefing on the new EU Commission President

The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission has been surrounded in controversy and conflicting stories in the UK.

What the European Commission is:
The European Commission is the EU’s civil service. It drafts proposals aimed at delivering the policy priorities set by EU member states like Britain, Germany, Spain or Poland. It’s independent and represents the interests of the European Union as a whole. It is small in size (smaller than Birmingham City Council) and it provides the policy expertise necessary to make a reality the political wishes of Prime Ministers and Ministers from around the EU. As well as working with member states it also works with the European Parliament, whose directly elected members (MEPs) are responsible for scrutinising and improving the Commission’s proposals. There are 28 Commissioners, responsible for different policy portfolios in areas where common action at the EU level is deemed to be more effective and efficient than individual member state actions at the national level. The Commission also represents the EU in international negotiations, like trade deals. It acts on the basis of a mandate given to it by national leaders in cases where speaking with one voice is better than speaking with 28 different voices.

What the European Commission is not:
A European Government, which imposes its wishes on member states.

What the European Commission President does:
The President gives political guidance to the Commission and leads the Commission's work in implementing EU policies. He or she represents the Commission in dealings with heads of member states and the European Parliament. The Commission President is also one of the EU’s voices in certain policy areas when dealing with other countries.

What the Commission President does not do:
The Commission President is not the President of the EU, he or she does not have executive powers nor is he or she the one who solely decides the direction the EU goes.

Who is Mr Juncker?
Jean-Claude Juncker is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, one of the most prosperous EU member states. For about 20 years he was a member of the European Council, the group that brings together Prime Ministers and Presidents from all member states. He was also head of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers and he presided over efforts to reform the way the currency union works after the financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that engulfed some eurozone countries. He is experienced in consensus-building and seeking compromise, a necessary skill if he is to find a way to accommodate the interests of the member states and the European Parliament when drafting EU policies.

Mr Juncker is not:
An ultra-federalist, out to get the UK. He does advocate closer European integration but does not believe that all member states need to go at the same speed. He was in fact the only candidate for Commission President who listed as one of his objectives finding a way to accommodate British interests and sensitivities.

 Based on a briefing  put together by the European Movement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

M4 plans a “huge mistake”


Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott has slammed today’s announcement that the ‘black route’ will be followed for the new M4 development.
The statement today by Economy Minister claims that no reasons were provided during the consultation process objecting to the ‘black route’. This ignores environmental concerns raised during the consultation process by Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Sustrans, and economic concerns raised by the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as the submission by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats prefer the ‘blue route’, which is the redevelopment of the A48 Southern Distributor Road and A4810 Steelworks Access Road. This route was not consulted upon by the Welsh Government in this latest consultation.
Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister, said:
“This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.
“The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham. The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence provided to her by the RSPB, Sustrans and the Federation of Small Businesses.
“There are still huge questions surrounding the economic benefit of this development. Investing the Welsh Government’s entire borrowing powers into one single road leaves no money left for other transport projects like the South Wales Metro, which can provide much greater economic benefit for the whole area.
“Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and are academically recommended. It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Minister is remaining blinkered, ignoring these credible proposals and ploughing ahead regardless.”

Mid and West Wales MEP William Powell has also described the procedure as "misguided".

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ministerial accountability

In the wake of the sacking of Alun Davies, Welsh LibDem leader Kirsty Williams writes:

This week has been one of the most extraordinary since the Welsh Assembly first opened its doors fifteen years ago.

The revelations surrounding Alun Davies as Minister for Natural Resources had begun to die down on Tuesday, following his breaking of the Ministerial Code announced last week. That was until a statement landed in my inbox from the First Minister telling me he’d been sacked.

Reading on, it became clear what had caused his dismissal. After finding out he’d broken the Ministerial Code, Alun Davies immediately went to try and uncover private details of agricultural payments made to myself, our own William Powell and three other Assembly Members. I’m under no doubt that this was an attempt to start a smear campaign against all five of us – all people who had dared to question his behaviour in the Circuit of Wales scandal.

I’m proud to be part of a family that’s been farming in Breconshire for over 100 years – I’ve never hidden that. It’s completely abhorrent that anyone would try and use that background against me or any of my fellow AMs. It was clear that Alun Davies could not keep his job, and I’m glad that he hasn’t.

I’m under no doubt that it isn’t just the credibility of Alun Davies, Carwyn Jones and his Welsh Labour Party that’s been harmed by this episode. The reputation of Welsh politics as a whole has taken a huge knock in the past few weeks, which will affect politicians of all parties.

There is, however, one positive that has come out of this mess. This week, the Assembly’s opposition parties united behind our long-standing call for independent policing of the Ministerial Code in Wales. It’s simply not right that the First Minister plays the role of judge, jury and executioner over issues relating to Welsh Ministers and even himself. The debate we held in the Siambr on Wednesday showed that this scandal has truly hit home with the First Minister, and his opposition to such moves was much more muted this time round.

This scandal was certainly unprecedented in Welsh politics. I just hope that we don’t see anything like it again.


Note: First Minister Carwyn Jones's powers are extensive. In 2007, he appointed himself Counsel General for Wales, a post which hitherto had been assumed to be at arms-length from government.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Local Liberal Democrats condemn council's rubbish handling


Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats were informed at their meeting last night that Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council was apparently alone in Wales in not arranging for "catch-up" refuse collections, following yesterday's strike by Unison members. We were also reminded that Neath Port Talbot has the second-highest council tax in Wales, and recently wasted £733,000 on replacing existing wheelie-bins with lower-capacity ones. (The council has not even recouped any of this expenditure by selling on the superseded bins, but instead has rendered them unusable.)

Thus not only will householders have to store a further fortnight's rubbish, but will also have a smaller bin to put it in. Families will have to resort to piling up black bags beside the bins, with all the dangers to hygiene that entails.

It has been noted that the council recommended the use of real nappies instead of disposables, but still had not followed Swansea City Council in providing a nappy collection service, as local campaigner Helen Ceri Clarke has urged.


Monday, June 16, 2014

EU politicians: "nostra culpa"

Sir Menzies Campbell, in this year's Garden Memorial Lecture at the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) confessed that there had been sins on the part of the great and good in the European Union. While confirming his and the party's commitment to the Union, he stressed that reform was needed.

Liberal International reports:
In the lecture, Sir Menzies responded to the result of the recent European Parliamentary Elections in Britain, saying: “[I]t is time for ‘Nostra Culpa’ and acknowledging the failure to press the case for reform of the EU. It is as nihilistic to say that the EU does not need reform as it is to say Britain must either be in or out. (…)Those of us who support [the UK’s] membership of the EU must support its reform if we are to be credible in our advocacy for Britain's continuing engagement in Europe.”

Speaking about the possible result of a British referendum on EU membership, Sir Menzies referred extensively to the repercussions for the UK’s foreign and security policy: “Those who argue for withdrawal seem blind to the consequences for the political as well as economic stability and security which NATO and the EU acting together provide. This is further echoed, for example, in the debate about Scottish independence and similarly characterized by a failure to understand and recognise that separation inevitably means that common values will be replaced by competing interests.”

On the possible consequences of secession for the political situation in Northern Ireland, Sir Menzies admitted that “in achieving the kind of settlement which has been achieved in Northern Ireland (…) the fact that both countries were members of the European Union has been of enormous significance”.

LI Treasurer Robert Woodthorpe Browne, who was present at the lecture with LI Secretary-General Emil Kirjas, commented: “Sir Menzies has given a thoughtful account of the state of the European Union and its future, and emphasised the part that we as liberals must play.”

A video containing the entire Lord Garden Memorial Lecture of Sir Menzies can be seen here. A transcript of the lecture can be found here.

The Lord Garden Memorial Lecture on Global Change is given annually by the British Group of Liberal International  to commemorate Timothy Garden, at the time of his premature death a Liberal Democrat peer,  a former Director of Chatham House and internationally renowned expert on international security.