Vince Cable gives a downbeat assessment of the UK economy but insists he is “positively committed” to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, as Gary Gibbon reports.
Mr Cable took aim at corporate “rewards for failure” as he set out plans for firms be forced publicly to justify handing out multi million-pound packages.
New rules will require the total value of salary, shares, pensions and bonuses to be set out clearly every year.
From October firms must disclose the criteria used to determine their huge reward packages.
Addressing the conference, the business secretary said: “It is hard to explain why shareholders can vote to cut top pay but the managers can ignore the vote.
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“And surely pay should be transparent – not hidden from shareholders and the public?
“I want to call time on pay outs for failure.”
In a downcast assessment of Britain’s economy, Mr Cable compared the country’s fiscal woes to war.
“When my staff saw my draft of this speech they said; we can see the grey skies – where are the sunny uplands? I am sorry, I can only tell it as I see it,” he said.
“People aren’t thinking about 10 years ahead when they are worrying about how to survive the next 10 days to pay day.
“The truth is that there are difficult times ahead, that Britain’s post-war pattern of ever rising living standards has been broken by the financial collapse.”
However, he reaffirmed his belief in the coalition’s ability to revive the economy.
“We can turn the economy around,” he said.
Yet again Vince Cable has captured the exact position the country faces. Ian Jones, chair of Middlesbrough and East Cleveland Lib Dems
“In the Coalition Agreement we promised to put fairness at the heart of all we do as we rebuild our broken economy from the rubble.
“Liberal Democrats know that you can’t do one without the other.
Onlookers praised Mr Cable for the “realistic” and “pragmatic” language of the speech.
Rachel Coleman Finch, a party member from Cambridge, told Channel 4 News: “It was a realistic speech.
“He described the things we have to do to get the country back on track. And for me, I’m a mother and he said we won’t solve the financial panic by cutting maternity leave – that’s what kept me in the workplace, so I’m pleased he said that.”
“Ian Jones, chair of Middlesbrough and East Cleveland Lib Dems said : “Yet again Vince Cable has captured the exact position the country faces and I hope people are beginning to grasp te severity of the situation we face.
“He made a reference to building from the rubble and that needs more thinking about. I don’t think everyone has fully grasped how bad this is.”