Careless omission from the Queen's Speech. Executive pay and performance. Tidy streets.
In the second edition of the new series of Leader Conference, Andrew Rawnsley was joined by Mary Ann Sieghart of the Independent; Jack Blanchard of the Yorkshire Post; Sarah Sands of the London Evening Standard; Rafael Behr of the New Statesman; and Daniel Finkelstein of the Times.
We debated: Why social care should be a government priority; making executive pay better reflect performance; and taking the fight to the litter bugs. .
Caring for the elderly
The coalition should not be distracted from significantly reducing the structural deficit. However, the Queen's Speech presented an opportunity to deliver on another of its pledges: a new type of politics. This it did not really take. Specifically, it should have tackled the growing cost of social care.
Eleven million people alive today will reach the age of 100. The rising population of older people presents future challenges that can be measured accurately. Andrew Dilnot's report, commissioned by the government and published last year, set out the facts. It also proposed credible measures to tackle problems that the insurance market cannot currently sort out on its own.
What is required now is the political courage to act. That would be good in itself. But it could also diminish cynicism about politicians' willingness to rise above tribal differences by setting out plans for high quality care at prices that do not impoverish the people who need it in old age.
The coalition does not shoulder this responsibility alone. We also urge the Opposition to play its part in tackling the issue. In doing so Labour could demonstrate its seriousness about distinguishing priorities when tackling the deficit.
The taxpayer cannot afford rising social care costs. Those who should pay are those who receive the care. Compulsory insurance may be required of many people to ensure that decent social care is self-financing. But making the public aware of this now and proposing simple schemes that meet future care needs is imperative.
Pricking the Executive Pay Bubble
We fear that cronyism not market-driven reward for performance now predominates in too many company boardrooms. Cosy committees of directors who serve on each other's boards set a bad example. They permit executive greed at shareholders' and consumers' expense. They need reform.
Pay at the top ought to reflect better the ups and downs of performance, including the share price of public companies. Annual pay rises of ten per cent or more do not incentivise executives; they make them complacent. They encourage executives across different industries to demand similar "compensation packages" from remuneration committees frightened that footloose talent may otherwise leave.
That bluff should be called. Performance targets need to be made more demanding and shareholders should be enabled to hold managers more closely to account for meeting them. This is not only in shareholders' financial interest; it serves the public interest too. The coalition's proposal to legislate in this area is timely.
More broadly, market failure on executive pay needs to be tackled by opening up remuneration committees to wider talent, knowledge and experience. That may include workers - although we are not convinced that worker representatives alone will address the problem. They could simply encourage higher pay costs.
Rather, shareholders should be more numerous and prominent on remuneration committees. In particular, we exhort pension funds and other investors who pool the public's savings to seek their views on executive pay and act on that information.
Heroine of the week!
We congratulate the BBC Radio 4 newsreader, Alice Arnold. She intervened against a littering couple whom she witnessed chucking an unwanted plastic bottle from their car onto the roadway. She got out of her own car and threw the bottle back through the open window of the couple's car.
She said her "heart beat faster" as she did this. We understand why. We do not advocate that litter is wilfully thrown back at those who drop it. But intolerance of littering - rather than indifference to it - shows commendable public spiritedness.
We all have responsibility for the environment that we use and enjoy. Tidy streets are important for road safety, public health and our self-esteem.
So good on Alice Arnold for reminding us of the simple truth: take your litter home with you.