PMQs: Tim Farron asks “Question of the week” – Ed Balls signals four runs

In my ever-earnest toil to prepare this review, this week I have been reviewing web sites which explain cricket umpire signals. I also checked the umpire signals for netball, American football and baseball.

There is no doubt about it. Ed Balls was signalling a four at Prime Ministers’ Questions. His hand was a bit lower than normal, but it would pass to signal a boundary at Morley Cricket Club.

For a change, I’m going to stand this review on its head this week and concentrate on questions from backbenchers, starting with Liberal Democrats.

Question of the week came from Tim Farron:

The world population passed 7 billion this week. That is an awful lot of mouths to feed. In addition, the UN predicts that over the next 40 years, world demand for food will increase by 70%. That ought to be good news for farmers, but sadly, since 1990, Britain’s capacity to feed itself has fallen by a fifth. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is a disastrous situation, and will he urgently introduce a credible strategy to grow Britain’s farming industry to feed us all in future?

David Cameron answered with this usual “My honourable friend makes an important point.”

Mike Crockart was, by a narrow squeak, runner-up to “Question of the week” with this one:

The Prime Minister will be aware of Citigroup’s report, issued yesterday, on green energy investment in Scotland. Does he agree that this report very ably demonstrates that the benefits of green energy in the UK are unlocked only by combining Scotland’s renewable potential with the large-scale investment made possible by the UK; and does he agree that a drawn-out independence referendum is a serious distraction from that?

And, completing the triumvirate of Liberal Democrat wise men, was Simon Hughes on the subject of directors’ pay:

Following the Prime Minister’s answers a moment ago, and given the huge anger about the pay for the top 100 directors, can he give me a personal assurance that he is committed to the transfer of power over pay from the boardroom to the shareholders of our companies?

(By the way, I should, in passing, mention that Bob Russell, looking quite colourfully dressed, was dying to ask a question – as was Julian Huppert. Ho hum. In the Commons, they also serve who just stand up and down every two minutes.)

Green MP Caroline Lucas would have also caused a cheer from outside St Paul’s with her question about the proposed “Robin Hood tax”:

Will the Prime Minister listen to both the campaigners outside Parliament today and the 80,000 people who have written to him in recent weeks, and commit to becoming a leading advocate for the introduction of a Robin Hood tax at the G20 summit later this week? Will he ensure that the revenue is earmarked to tackle sustainable development and the growing climate crisis?

Finally, we go from long-term strategic thinking to an equally valid short-term “get our arse out of the fire” question from Alistair Darling:

When the Prime Minister goes to the G20 meeting over the next couple of days, will he try to persuade his colleagues of the urgency of coming up with some detail on the eurozone settlement reached last week? It is not at all clear how on earth Greece will get out of its difficulties, even if the referendum passes. European banks will need shoring up well before next summer, and as for the new rescue fund, which may be needed sooner than we think, it does not actually exist. Will he accept that the G20 now needs to show the same urgency and sense of purpose that it showed two years ago when it met in London? Otherwise, far from getting ahead of events, Governments will be condemned to being dragged along in their wake.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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3 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Nov '11 - 2:15pm

    If individual shareholders exercised the final say, they would have a more austere view, though they would still be a bit more City-biassed than the man or woman in the street.

    And the drawback of this would be the obvious one: it is genuinely hard to hire competent people because there aren’t enough to go around, and if your competitor is offering to pay them three times as much, it is going to be very hard for them to say no.

    Everybody’s job is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. Note, that’s not what you are willing to pay for it – it’s what somebody else is willing to pay to hire them away from you, and your only choice is whether to match that number or not. If there is just one company willing to pay more, when every other company takes an austere approach, then that one company will have all the good people and dominate the market. It’s not exactly that the market has a “different viewpoint on suitable salaries”, but rather that this market has a great deal of money and hence can afford much higher salaries, and uses this leverage to recruit people.

    Now, there are genuine issues with boardroom remuneration and the whole “reward for failure” thing, but the answer is not “just cut everybody’s pay”. There are also problems with top-heavy “hero culture” thinking, which is under the (usually wrong) impression that company directors are wholly responsible for the performance of the company, and if it does well in the market then that means they’re doing a good job. In practice, if most of the senior workers are doing a really good job, and half the executives are screwing up, then the company will perform well (but far less well than it could). What we need is a more nuanced analysis of corporate performance.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    “Now, there are genuine issues with boardroom remuneration and the whole “reward for failure” thing, but the answer is not “just cut everybody’s pay”.

    Unles they are workers in the public services, of course!

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