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PM and Miliband clash on bonuses

Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of being "part of the problem" of excessive executive pay during heated Commons exchanges with Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The premier was rebuked during Prime Minister's Question Time for accusing Mr Miliband of "hypocrisy" as the pair clashed in the wake of the row over Royal Bank of Scotland chief Stephen Hester's bonus.

Mr Cameron rejected the Labour leader's calls to install workers on firms' remuneration committees and to force banks to disclose how many employees were paid more than £1 million.

The Prime Minister said Labour had failed to act during their term in office and insisted that the UK now had the "toughest and most transparent regime" of any major financial centre. The exchanges came after former RBS chief Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood, a move welcomed by the Prime Minister.

Mr Miliband said legislation requiring banks to disclose how many employees were paid more than £1 million was already on the statute book and could be implemented by ministers.

But Mr Cameron told him: "We now have the toughest and most transparent regime of any major financial centre in the world. For the first time ever, banks are going to publish the pay of the top eight executives. That never happened in 13 years of a Labour government."

Mr Miliband said the Prime Minister was giving "no leadership on top pay" and added that "there are more than eight people earning over £1 million at our banks". He said Chancellor George Osborne had backed the reforms before he took office and it was "another broken promise".

Mr Cameron shot back: "It was the last Labour government, when you were in the Cabinet, that agreed an RBS bonus pool of £1.3 billion, literally hundreds of people were getting million-pound bonuses and you signed it off. The issue for you is why are you in favour now in Opposition of things you never did in Government? Some might call it Opposition, some people might call it hypocrisy."

Mr Cameron was forced to withdraw the comment after Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled: "The use of the word hypocrisy in relation to an individual Member is not parliamentary." The Prime Minister said he was "very happy" to withdraw the comment, adding: "I think it's just because we are expected to listen to the people who presided over the biggest banking and financial disaster in our history."

Mr Miliband told Mr Cameron that hypocrisy was "saying you are going to stop a £1 million bonus to Stephen Hester and then nodding it through". Mr Hester bowed to mounting public pressure and waived his near-£1 million share bonus after a public row over the payment. The Labour leader told Mr Cameron: "I think we have now heard it all, because you said that the class war is going to be led by you and your Cabinet of millionaires. I don't think it's going to wash, frankly."


From Belfast Telegraph