Cook slams Bonfield's bumper pay-off

The Leader of the House of Commons has condemned senior bosses who leave with wheelbarrow-loads of cash when their performance might not merit it

The £3m pay-off awarded to departing BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield was criticised by senior Labour MP Robin Cook on Thursday.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Cook agreed that it wasn't acceptable for top bosses to receive generous financial settlements at a time when the slowing economy is hitting both workers and shareholders. As well as receiving £1.4m in cash, Bonfield's will also be paid an extra £350,000 of pension payments and £1.3 million in deferred share awards.

"At a time when workers are losing their jobs and shareholders are losing their money, we would expect executives to share some of the pain," said Cook, who was appointed Leader of the Commons after this summer's general election.

Cook was answering a question from fellow MP Roy Beggs, who asked whether the government was planning to bring in legislation allowing shareholders to vote on director's pay and settlement deals.

The Ulster Unionist for MP East Antrim said that BT's shareholders were angered by what he described as Bonfield's "golden payoff". "This is obscene and it is in spite of the fact that shareholders' money was lost and the share value collapsed during the period when he has been responsible within BT," Beggs claimed.

Cook told the Commons that the government would introduce a bill that would give shareholders the power to review executive pay.

The imminent departure of Sir Peter Bonfield from BT was announced yesterday. He will leave the company at the end of January 2002 -- nearly a year earlier than planned. However, he will still be paid until the end of next year.

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