UK finance minister’s future questioned

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond tries to find his place to stand on the stage for the G-20 finance ministers group photo at the IMF headquarters in Washington last week. He now finds himselfat the center of a fraught debate over Brexit. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
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UK finance minister’s future questioned

LONDON: Britain’s Finance Minister Philip Hammond on Sunday faced mounting questions over his future weeks ahead of a budget announcement, finding himself at the center of an increasingly fraught debate over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The EU last week declared a “disturbing deadlock” in talks with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on arrangements to leave the bloc, raising the chances of Britain quitting without a negotiated deal and increasing criticism of the government’s handling of Brexit.
On Sunday an unnamed source from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said May must warn Hammond he faces the sack unless he changes his approach to Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reported. The DUP is a small Northern Irish political party which is keeping May’s minority government in power.
“We are very concerned about Philip Hammond’s behavior,” the senior parliamentary DUP source told the newspaper.
“It is evident to us that he is winding people up and causing unnecessary division within the Conservative Party at a crucial time in the Brexit negotiations.”
A DUP spokesman later said the party did not recognize the “inaccurate” comments.
Hammond, 61, who is seen by many as May’s most pro-EU minister, has become a focal point of criticism for Brexiteers, who say he is overly pessimistic about the impact of leaving the bloc and is damaging Britain’s negotiating stance.
Last week Hammond warned Brexit was causing a “cloud of uncertainty” over the British economy that needed to be cleared as quick as possible. He has previously angered euroskeptics by calling for a lengthy transition out of the EU, during which there will be little change to rules on issues like immigration.
In a botched attempt on Friday to calm speculation over his future and play down the party’s divisions Hammond described the EU as the “enemy” in negotiations. He later said he regretted his choice of words.
He had been expected to lose his job if May had won an increased majority at a June snap election, but the vote instead saw the Conservatives lose their majority and Hammond retain his position as May fought to maintain unity between pro-EU and pro-Brexit factions.
The June election also transformed the DUP, which only has 10 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament, into an influential voice. May struck a deal with the party and is reliant on their support to pass legislation.
— Reuters


Pay for Britain’s top bosses rises 23 percent

Updated 52 min 6 sec ago
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Pay for Britain’s top bosses rises 23 percent

  • Excessive corporate pay has attracted public anger since the financial crisis
  • The increase far exceeds the 2.5 percent increase in average salaries for British workers to £29,009

LONDON: Pay packages for the bosses of Britain’s 100 biggest listed firms rose 23 percent over the past year, fueled by payouts for the CEOs of house builder Persimmon and industrial firm Melrose Industries, a survey showed on Wednesday.
Excessive corporate pay has attracted public anger since the financial crisis and Prime Minister Theresa May has denounced the gap between the amounts paid to bosses and average workers as irrational and unhealthy.
The survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the High Pay Center thinktank showed the average income for chief executives of companies in the FTSE 100 share index was £5.7 million ($7.25 million) in their financial year ending in 2017, up 23 percent from the previous year.
The increase far exceeds the 2.5 percent increase in average (mean) salaries for British workers to £29,009, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A similar study a year ago showed bosses’ average pay had dropped by 17 percent over the previous year.
CIPD said the strong performance of the stock market in the years to 2017 was probably a factor in this year’s increase but that this should prompt questions about the contribution of individual bosses to share performance as opposed to other factors such as economic context or the wider workforce.
The CIPD report said the mean figure was skewed by very large payouts to the bosses of house builder Persimmon and Melrose Industries.
Excluding these two chief executives would bring the mean single figure down from £5.7 million to £4.8 million, still representing a 6 percent increase from the previous year.
The highest paid CEO in the financial year ending 2017 was Persimmon’s Jeff Fairburn, who received £47.1 million, more than 20 times his pay in 2016, largely due to a long-term incentive plan dating back to 2012.
That plan gave share options to managers of Britain’s second-biggest house builder which they could sell once the company had returned a set level of cash and dividends to investors.
In February 2018 it scaled back these rewards amid criticism that a government scheme had bolstered house builders.
Simon Peckham, chief executive of Melrose Industries, an industrial turnaround specialist that clinched an £8 billion hostile takeover of British engineer GKN in March, was paid £42.8 million in the financial year ending in 2017, mainly due to a 2012 incentive plan.
A Melrose spokesman highlighted the impact of the long-term incentive plan, adding: “The salary and bonus of the CEO was £974,000 last year which puts him squarely in line with the average pay ratio for employees as evidenced in the report.”
A spokeswoman for Persimmon was not immediately available to comment.