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Cable targets high earners

POLITICAL EDITOR

VINCE Cable is considering plans to publish the names of anyone earning over £200,000 at a publicly listed company.

The Liberal Democrats have already unveiled similar proposals for those working in the banking industry, but in an exclusive interview with City A.M. Cable said there was an argument for applying such a regime “across the board”.

Referring to a policy that would force banks to issue a public list of all staff earning over £200,000, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman said he wanted to make “sure that all high remuneration packages are fully and openly declared”.

When asked if he would extend the policy to publicly quoted companies in all industries, he replied: “There is an argument for applying it across the board.”

“I think transparency is an important thing in itself. Clearly where you have PLCs, shareholders would start raising it at annual meetings. Maybe at the end of the day people get well paid, but why hide it? We don’t hide it for directors,” he added.

He conceded that the proposal “causes some discomfort” but said it was “scarcely threatening”, and dismissed suggestions that it could lead to an exodus of top-drawer banking talent.

“Every time I go to a hedge fund dinner, I get this sort of blood-curdling stuff: ‘We’re all going to leave next week’. But there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that British financiers are net migrating to Switzerland.”

Today’s YouGov poll for the Sun put the Tories on 35 per cent, with the Lib Dems and Labour neck and neck on 28 per cent. If repeated on 6 May there would be a hung parliament, meaning there is every possibility that Cable gets a job at the Treasury along with the chance to lobby for a tough disclosure regime.

Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, said the plans were “more about personal witch hunts than transparency”.

She added: “Of course it’s possible to publish names, but what does it achieve? People in the industry are feeling pilloried and demonised. I appreciate there’s an election on, but politicians should beware of making these kinds of statements.”

Knight also warned that the £200,000 threshold would eventually be lowered if such a regime does come into force. “It’s a slippery slope. What tends to happen is if you set a number it gets eroded over time”.

In a wide ranging interview on his plans for the City ahead of the general election on Thursday, Cable also called for a competition probe into Magic Circle law firms and the “big four” accountancy giants.

He said: “You have a kind of magic circle based on reputation. I’m not alleging anything improper, but you’re getting effectively monopoly rates. I think it is a competition policy issue. How easy it is to open up the market I don’t know.

“There is a second tier of the BDO Stoy Haywards who are desperate to get into this stuff. Why they’re impeded, I don’t know. But I have asked the OFT to look at this, and they have agreed.”

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