Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Brown vows to claw pension back

Gordon Brown on his anger over Sir Fred Goodwin's pension

Gordon Brown has repeated his threat of legal action against ex-Royal Bank of Scotland chief Sir Fred Goodwin over his "unacceptable" 16m pension.

The PM said he shared public "anger" at the size of the pension and was "considering every legal means at our disposal" to get some of it back.

Sir Fred has rejected pleas to return it, claiming ministers approved it.

The Tories say Mr Brown's anger is "synthetic" as ministers knew about the pension and should have stopped it.

Sir Fred's pension pot doubled to 16m last October, guaranteeing the 50-year-old 693,000-a-year for life, when he agreed to take early retirement. It is thought he would have received significantly less if he had been sacked.


The Treasury was preparing to pump 20bn into the crippled bank at the time and was anxious to get new management in place.

But it has now suggested it was misled by RBS's then board which it says "gave the impression" that Sir Fred's pension was legally binding, or that the board itself may have been kept in the dark about the true picture.

Gordon Brown said he only discovered "in the last few days" that the pension package was in fact "discretionary" and could have been blocked.

He said he was now taking legal advice on clawing it back if Sir Fred continued to ignore "the public's pleas".

"The behaviour in the Royal Bank of Scotland, where very substantial additional pension awards were given, is something that makes me angry and will make the public of the country angry," he told BBC News.

He repeated his plea to Sir Fred, who was knighted in 2004 for services to banking, to voluntarily waive some of his pension or face legal action.

He obviously has got no sense of shame
Vince Cable on Sir Fred Goodwin

He added: "When banks fail... the people who make the mistakes cannot and should not run off with entitlements and with additional discretionary payments... this is unjustifiable, unacceptable and we are going to clean up the banks so that this doesn't happen again."

Downing Street said Mr Brown had "full confidence" in City minister Lord Myners, a longstanding adviser to Mr Brown who was drafted into government last year, a few days before the RBS negotiations began.

Resignation call

Lord Myners denies Sir Fred's claim, in a letter published on Thursday, that he approved the former banker's 693,000-a-year pension.

But Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury minister was now in "a very difficult position" after Chancellor Alistair Darling revealed on Thursday that Sir Fred's pension could have been vetoed in October.

Sir Fred is grilled about his pension by the Treasury Committee earlier this month

He said it was "pathetic" for ministers to protest about it now and, although the public had a right to be angry about it, they should also be angry about Gordon Brown and Lord Myners, who he claimed had little realistic chance of getting the money back.

"We should be angry that this row has further sapped confidence in the government's ability to handle the banking crisis which is at the heart of this recession," he added.

Tory MP, deputy chairman of the influential Treasury select committee, said he believed Lord Myners should resign.

"I think the public want to see somebody take responsibility for this," Mr Fallon told BBC News.

"He negotiated this deal with Fred Goodwin back in October, he knew the details of the pension entitlement, he waved it through. I think he should accept responsibility now and resign."

GMB union leader Paul Kenny said Lord Myners should resign if he knew about the pension deal or did not check how much he was going to be paid.

Meanwhile Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable and former deputy prime minister John Prescott have strongly criticised Sir Fred for taking the money.

Mr Prescott told BBC News earlier: "Take it off him and let him sue in the courts".

Mr Cable said Sir Fred should receive 27,000 a year - the amount he would have received under the pension protection scheme if RBS had gone bankrupt, which would have happened if it had not been bailed-out by taxpayers.

"He obviously has got no sense of shame and it's then the government's job to defend the taxpayers' interests and I think they should take a very tough line," said Mr Cable.

But he said the government had tried to use the row over Sir Fred's pension as a "smokescreen" to conceal the "much bigger issue" of its latest bail-out of RBS, which he said was a "scandalous" use of public money.

HBOS, which became part of Lloyds Banking Group in a government-engineered deal, announced pre-tax losses of 10.8bn in 2008.

Pensions comparison
The figure for a company director is from the TUC's PensionsWatch 2008, which surveys 102 UK companies, including a number in the FTSE100
MP's pension represents an MP serving the average time in Parliament and at the current accruing rate of 1/40th of salary
The pension credit minimum income is the minimum amount for a single pensioner claiming all benefits and with no other income
Source TUC/DWP/Parliament. All figures for single person pensions

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