* Legislation could be set out in the spring
* Shareholder voting powers to be main focus of changes
* PM cool on putting employee on pay panel
By Avril Ormsby
LONDON, Jan 8 Britain's Prime Minister
David Cameron suggested on Sunday that legislation to curb
excessive executive pay, including giving shareholders new
voting powers, could be set out in the spring.
Cameron is keen to take charge of the agenda on so-called
company "fat cat" pay when all major political parties recognise
the need to respond to growing public anger over the widening
gap between rich and poor.
Most Britons' pay packets have seen little increase in the
past few years while leaders of the biggest companies have
continued to receive lavish pay rises, even when share prices
have performed badly.
People in the UK are also struggling with rising prices,
unemployment and government austerity measures to reduce a
record peacetime budget deficit.
Cameron said concrete proposals may be set out in the spring
when Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers a speech to parliament
setting out the government's plans for new laws.
"We have a Queen's Speech coming up in the spring this
year," Cameron told BBC television.
"I do not want to pre-empt it, but it is very likely to
include legislation on companies and on banking and on things
like that, so there's room to make legislative changes if that
Cameron, who heads a Conservative-led coalition, said
"everything is on the table," when looking at blocking high
rewards for failure.
He said it made "people's blood boil" that between 1998 and
2010 the average pay of FTSE executives went up four times
outstripping share prices and workers' salaries.
He focused on giving shareholders a binding vote on company
bosses' pay packages, as well as pay-offs, instead of the
current system of simply having advisory votes.
The prime minister also said remuneration committees needed
to be reformed to stop the "merry-go-round" or "crony
capitalism" where members who sit on each others boards indulge
in backscratching when handing out each other's pay rises.
Cameron, who is leader of the Conservative Party which is
viewed as more friendly to business than its junior coalition
partner the Liberal Democrats, was more elusive on other
possible measures such as publishing pay ratios and whether an
employee could sit on a remuneration committee.
When asked about latter, Cameron said: "I don't rule that
out, but I think that the key thing here is reforming the
remuneration committees themselves."
On publishing pay ratios within companies he said there were
"some attractions to that" but it was "not the whole answer".
Business Secretary Vince Cable, a Lib Dem, is expected to
publish the results of a consultation on bosses' pay this month,
including shareholders' powers.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) business
organisation gave a luke warm response to Cameron's shareholder
"Binding shareholder votes would simply be shutting the
stable door after the horse has bolted, as shareholders would
only be voting after the problem has happened," its
Director-General John Cridland said in a statement.
The opposition Labour Party, which set out its plans for
"transparency, accountability and fairness" on pay on Saturday,
accused the government of having done little since coming to
power in May 2010.
"I am not interested in gimmicks, I'm not interested in
tokenism, I'm interested in what will actually work to correct
this market failure," Cameron said.