John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: October 6, 2017 Last modified: October 9, 2017

I’ve got mine
Eye-watering sums are still being paid to executive directors, according to the Labour Research Department’s latest analysis of company remuneration reports. Thirty executives from 16 companies that are in the top FTSE 350 index trousered £163.94 million in the last full financial year, which works out to an average package of £5.46 million. Five of the 30 received remuneration packages of at least £10 million a year. The top five are dominated by luxury housebuilder Berkeley with media group Sky making up the numbers. Tony Pidgley, founder and chair of Berkeley, got £29.19 million in the year to April – on a weekly basis that works out to £561,380. His managing director Rob Perrins received £27.96 million or £537,750. In fourth and fifth spots are Sean Ellis with £12.74 million or £245,000 a week and Greg Fry who got £10.03 million. Fry retired from the board in December 2016 so his package works out at £313,340 a week for eight month’s work. In third spot, Jeremy Darroch, chief executive at Sky, received a package worth £16.34 million or £314,280 a week. Year-on-year comparisons could be made for 23 executives and 21 saw their remuneration packages grow over the past two financial years. The increases range from 13.6% up to 323.3% at a time when average earnings in the UK economy where only increasing by at most 2.8%. Again Berkeley and Sky dominate the top five. Berkeley’s Sean Ellis and Rob Perrins got 323.3% and 154.4% increases respectively. At Sky, chief financial officer Andrew Griffith received a 292.0% boost taking him to £9.23 million or £177,460 a week, while Jeremy Darroch’s increase was 253.8%. Darren Throop, chief executive of TV and film production company Entertainment One, completes the top five with a 134.0% rise taking him to £1.68 million or £32,210 a week.

You better believe it
Former Sheffield Labour MP Bill Michie, who has died (see Obituaries, page 17) was a fine socialist well to the Left of the party. But that never meant he always spurned the “enemy” and enjoyed telling a very un-PC story. He was a regular sparring partner in Annie’s Bar with the late Barry Porter, a Right-wing Wirral Tory who greeted him with the words: “Hello, Bill, my old Trot with his head up Arthur Scargill’s back passage.” He replied: “Hello, Barry, you Orange, Thatcherite Nazi.” Porter was quiet for a moment, then responded: “You can call me an Orangeman, because that’s what I am. You can call me a Thatcherite, because that’s what I am. But never, ever call me a Nazi.” “Why not?” “Because a close family member died in the camps,” was the sombre reply. Bill recalled: “I felt two feet tall, and I’m not that big to start with. I said I was sorry, that I’d never guessed, and asked what happened. ‘He fell off a watchtower’ was the reply.”

Tin soldier
Anyone fancy a new job in fancy dress paying up to £93,000 a year? Parliament is advertising for a new Black Rod to replace Lieutenant General David Leakey, who is retiring. He is best known for a role in the State Opening of Parliament, knocking on the door of the House of Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech. But the post-holder has year-round responsibilities for the security and maintenance of the House of Lords. However, most previous holders of the post have come from a military background. The closing date for applicants is 10 October.

Own up time
A bus company and its managing director are the defendants in The Pensions Regulator’s first prosecution over auto-enrolment into pensions. Stotts Tours (Oldham) Limited is accused of failing to comply with the law on automatic enrolment in respect of 36 members of staff. Managing director Alan Stott is accused of either consenting or conniving in the bus company’s offence, or allowing the offence to be committed by neglect. The bus company and Stott have been summonsed to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to face eight charges of wilfully failing to comply with the company’s duties under section 3(2) of the Pensions Act 2008, contrary to section 45 of the Act in the case of Stotts Tours (Oldham) and contrary to section 46 of the Act in the case of Stott. By February 2018, all employers will be covered by the statutory requirement to auto-enrol workers into pension schemes. Auto-enrolment legislation is enforced by The Pensions Regulator. Its formal powers include issuing compliance notices, conducting inspections and issuing penalty fines to employers. However, The Pensions Regulator can also initiate criminal proceedings against employers that “wilfully fail to comply” with the legislation, as well as directors who are implicated in any failure to comply with the law.

Things are going to get better
Courier and taxi group Addison Lee is latest gig economy firm to exit from an employment tribunal licking its wounds. In an important ruling, which will affect thousands of Addison Lee drivers, the employment tribunal has ruled that a group of Addison Lee drivers were not self-employed, as the company argued, but are workers who are entitled to essential workers’ rights, including to be paid the National Minimum Wage, receive holiday pay and not have their contracts terminated because they are members of a trade union. The drivers initially brought their case to the London Central Employment Tribunal in July, supported by the GMB general union arguing that the company was “shirking its responsibilities through bogus self-employment”.

Watcha gonna do about it?
There was a small revolution at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Journalists were told they were banned from the floor of of the debates. Worse still, delegates were told they were banned, being restricted to the upper balcony. And even worse than that, and the greatest ignominy, was that the same fate befell MPs. They too were excluded from debates on the floor. Something to do with democracy with delegates given precedence. Another example was the trade unions, including general secretaries, also excluded from the balcony and vowing at the prices they pay never to attend again. We shall see.

Come on children
There were so many present at conference at one point that there were too many to get in. More than 13,000 in fact, a staggering figure. A sign of our times and no wonder it was a fringe meeting for artificial intelligence.

Wham bam thank you mam
You would have thought that Boris Johnson would zip his lips in front of his party faithful, but instead the back-stabbing bumbler risked stumbling into a fresh diplomatic gaffe. The Foreign Secretary, who visited war-torn Libya in August, hailed the “incredible country” at a Conservative conference fringe event. He described Libya’s “bone white sand”, “beautiful seas”, “brilliant young people” and “real potential”. He added: “There’s a group of UK business people … wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast. They have a brilliant vision to turn Sirte … into the next Dubai. The only thing they’ve got to do is clear the dead bodies away and then they’ll be there.” The alleged joke was met by a smattering of laughter from the audience, before the event’s chair asked for the next question. Johnson was then quizzed by a woman he recalled meeting 25 years ago, during his career as a journalist. He exclaimed: “Very nice to see you again.” The woman replied: “I wish I could say the same for you.”

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.