Sunday, 12 September 2010

If I were a left-leaning Lib Dem..

...and I was going to stick with the party, having accepted the Coalition for better or worse, I think I'd be most interested in BIS as a government department. First up it's a Lib Dem powerbase in the govt - after all this is where St Vince is secretary of state, plus Ed Davey as a minister with responsibility for quite interesting stuff (for me anyway) like company law.

Given that the Coalition has pledged to bring back the OFR, though in reality looking at the consultation on narrative reporting it looks like it will be the Business Review v2, you can see that there is a bit of interest in this field. But there is arguably scope to do more, and it won't cost much money if it's done within the framework of the ownership agenda.

Just a few random ideas -

1. review the effects of the advisory vote on remuneration. a proper review of in particular how it has been used could a ) provide some really interesting info (my view is that the vote hasn't been used effectively, but let's see some data b) provide the justification for further action on high pay, if desired
2. look again at rem disclosure regulations - the narrative reporting consultation includes questions on this but it could go much further. what about directors' pensions? what about the pay gap? - now to be disclosed in the US btw?
3. what about a Myners' style review of ownership/stewardship? the UK has already started heading down an interesting path with the Stewardship Code which is attracting much interest elsewhere. why not broaden this out and turn it into a policy theme?
4. tidy stuff up. why not bring together the bits of the framework dealing with directors' duties with those dealing with investor responsibility? they would be the two sides of the 'stewardship' agenda. this could be kicked off alongside the changes to the architecture underway in the HMT consultation.

And a couple of caveats -

1. it requires committing to the idea that something useful can be done in the area - ie that ownership matters
2. this only has legs as long as BIS does. more cynical people than I believe there's a reason why Lib Dems have been given a seat of power in BIS. so it needs protecting.

It strikes me that many Lib Dem members will be at least as interested is business responsibility issues as people like me in Labour, but to date they don't seem to have grasped the opportunity they potentially have at BIS. Or am I missing something?

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