Vince on Sir Fred Goodwin

by Stephen Tall on March 2, 2009

As we have come to relish and expect, Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable – who is acting party leader during Nick Clegg’s fortnight’s paternity leave – has been dispensing his wisdom on the current furore surrounding the £650,000 a year pension of RBS’s former chief Sir Fred Goodwin sanctioned a few months ago by Labour’s business minister Lord Myners.

Vince’s official statement yesterday made clear his view that Sir Fred should expect to lose £623,000 a year of his pension benefit without any need at all to adopt Harriet Harman’s proposed retrospective legislation:

Nobody disputes that Sir Fred Goodwin should be deprived of his pension. The only issue is what is practical. We need to be careful about the suggestion that new legislation should be brought in to apply to an individual and to apply retrospectively. The Government has had effective control over RBS and other banks for several months but is simply unwilling or unable to exercise that control in the interest of the public. It should do so immediately, making sure that Government directors on the boards of RBS and Lloyds sort out not just remuneration scandals but tax avoidance and other murky activities that have been swept under the carpet.

“In the case of Sir Fred Goodwin, it seems to me the Government would be on strong ground to tell him he is entitled to pension payments available to employees of bankrupt companies under the Pension Protection Fund, which have a maximum of £27,000 a year. If he feels that’s inadequate he can sue.”

A few hours later, Vince gave even shorter shrift to Ms Harman’s proposal, denouncing it as “utterly potty”:

The idea which she seems to be suggesting that you can bring a speical piece of legislaiton for one individual and apply it retrospectively seems utterly potty. I really don’t know whether she’s thought this through at all.”

Vince then went on to condemn Labour’s distraction techniques, which has diverted media attention from the government’s announcement of its asset protection scheme:

I think it was probably synthetic anger … as a way of detracting attention form the asset protection scheme. The real money is in the policy rather than the pension and I was certainly very critical of those proposals, that I think is the real outrage and what we should be focusing on. I think where the government has fallen down is that it has put vast amounts of money in the banks and they should have made sure they had government directors on the board. We’ve had this half way house and it’s not clear who is making decisions.”

There is, by the way, an interesting video of Vince explaining how Britain and the rest of the world landed itself in this financial mess over at the Guardian’s website here. The latest collapse of global capitalism summarised in 20 minutes – for what more could one ask?