All in this together? Directors' pay up 49 per cent

FTSE 100 directors receive a 49 per cent pay increase, while average pay rises by 2 per cent.

While most workers endure below-inflation pay rises or no pay rise at all, it's business as usual in the boardroom. Income Data Services, which crunched the numbers, found that the average FTSE 100 executive director received a 49 per cent rise in the last financial year to bring their total remuneration to £2.7m. Over the same period, chief executive pay rose by 43.5 per cent to £3.8m. Conversely, average pay, excluding bonus payments, has risen by just 1.8 per cent in the last year, well below inflation, which stands at 5.2 per cent.

At a time when company share prices and profits have fallen, what explains such extravagant rewards? Pay is set by remuneration committees, who are supposedly bound to guard the shareholder interest. But in practice the committees are dominated by a closed circle of former managers, who can ignore shareholder votes. As Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the High Pay Commission, noted on the Today programme this morning: "remuneration committees on companies are often made up of other executives from other companies with an interest in keeping pay high."

So, to quote Lenin, what is to be done? Both the coalition and Labour have addressed the subject in recent months, a break with the New Labour era when soaring executive pay was viewed as an immutable law of gravity. Vince Cable, for instance, has promised to force remuneration committees to explain in annual company reports why pay is so out of line with performance, and to give shareholders a legal binding right to block excessive pay. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has focused on the need to diversify membership of remuneration committees by ensuring that they include at least one employee.

But such long-term promises won't satisfy the populist demand to curb excessive pay. For now, the truth is that we're all in it together but some of us are more in it than others.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.