Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has vowed to fight an “anti-business culture” in Britain, warning that a row over executive pay and bonuses threatens the country’s fragile economic recovery.
“Let me say something about the row over bonuses and pay,” Osborne said in a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses.
“Of course rewards for failure are unacceptable — and those who believe in the free market are the first to say so. But a strong, free market economy must be built on rewards for success.”
The Labour Party has heaped pressure on the ruling coalition to curb excessive pay for top executives, using a House of Commons debate to demand the return of a tax on bankers’ bonuses.
“There are those who are trying to create an anti-business culture in Britain — and we have to stop them,” said Osborne.
His comments came as Stephen Hester, chief executive of the state-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland, broke his silence over his decision last month to give up a bonus of almost £1 million in shares.
Hester made his first comments on the furore in a memo to RBS staff, having bowed to intense political pressure and waived his annual bonus of shares worth £963,000 on top of his £1.2 million salary.
In a letter to employees of the bank, 82 percent of which is owned by the British taxpayer after a massive bailout, Hester said press coverage had been “discomforting to say the least”.
The huge bonus had sparked outrage amid government calls for pay restraint, ongoing austerity and economic gloom. Former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin was also stripped of his knighthood last month.
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