Private water payouts are a public scandal, says Labour

John McDonnell promises renationalisation of water, energy and rail under Labour

John McDonnell






John McDonnell has called the shareholder payouts of water companies a ‘scandal’.
Photograph: James McCauley/Rex/Shutterstock

Labour launched a full-frontal attack on the privatised water industry last night, accusing companies of paying out the “scandalous” sum of £13.5bn in dividends to shareholders since 2010, while claiming huge tax breaks and forcing up prices for millions of customers.

The assault by shadow chancellor John McDonnell came as he pledged total, “permanent” and cost-free renationalisation of water, energy and rail if Labour won power at the next election. The three privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s became hallmarks of the Tory governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

The dramatic intervention – which stunned the companies involved – was the strongest denunciation yet by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour of the privatisation programme that has become part of the British political landscape of the last 40 years.

The Conservative party and the Confederation of British Industry both condemned McDonnell’s comments. The CBI said Labour’s renationalisation agenda would “wind the clock back on our economy” while chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned that placing politicians in charge of public utilities “didn’t work last time and won’t work this time”.

McDonnell told the Observer that water companies could not even claim to offer choice to customers but instead operated regional monopolies, and were therefore able to increase prices without the risk of losing out to competitors, as well as “load up debt” while paying out huge dividends to shareholders.

“It is a national scandal that since 2010 these companies have paid billions to their shareholders, almost all their profits, whilst receiving more in tax credits than they paid in tax,” he said. “These companies operate regional monopolies which have profited at the expense of consumers who have no choice in who supplies their water.

“The next Labour government will call an end to the privatisation of our public sector, and call time on the water companies, who have a stranglehold over working households. Instead, Labour will replace this dysfunctional system with a network of regional, publicly owned water companies.”

Citing figures from the National Audit Office, the shadow chancellor said water bills had risen by 40% in real terms since privatisation of the industry in 1989. In 2016-17, the forecast average for water bills was £389 per household. McDonnell claimed that in 2017, privatised water companies paid out a total £1.6bn to their shareholders. Since 2010, the total was £13.5bn.

Michael Roberts, the chief executive of Water UK, which represents private water companies, said McDonnell was completely mistaken: “It’s wrong for Labour to suggest that our water system is broken. Water companies secure capital provided by lenders and shareholders, who need water companies to make a return in order to finance significant improvements to the industry.

“Under public ownership, the water sector in England was starved of cash and standards were poor. Private companies have instead invested heavily to reduce leakage, improve drinking water quality, and protect the environment – and they continue to invest £8 billion each year in even better services. In real terms, bills are roughly where they were 20 years ago and will be falling over the next few years.”

Meanwhile, at a conference on alternative models of ownership in London, Corbyn backed the nationalisation of Britain’s energy system as a way to tackle climate change. He said that “the challenge of climate change and the threat of climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical” as the 1945 Labour government that created the National Health Service. Corbyn said that Labour would back a “great wave of change across the world in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities.

“We can put Britain at the forefront of the wave of change across the world in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities,” he said.

“From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed, and taking back control of their public services,” he added.

The water industry was privatised in 1989, transferring the assets and personnel of the 10 water authorities into limited companies. Capital was raised by floating the companies on the stock exchange, accompanied by a one-off injection of public capital, the write-off of government debt and the provision of capital tax allowances.

Blue Planet gives super-rich their new toys – submersibles

World’s ultra-rich are buying subs for up to £30m to indulge in deep ocean exploring

Triton submersibles






Doing a David Attenborough – Triton submersibles in deep waters off Lyford Cay, Bahamas.
Photograph: Nick Verola

A new toy has surfaced on the must-have list of leisure options for the world’s billionaire class: private submersibles they can use to explore the oceans – or even use as James Bond-style means of escape if their superyacht should come under attack.

The global super-rich last year bought about 30 submersibles – with price tags of up to £30m – according to manufacturer Triton. These private submarines are known as submersibles because they are not independently powered, instead relying on batteries that have to be recharged by a support vessel.

Louise Harrison, Triton’s European sales director, said in recent months the BBC’s Blue Planet series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, had led to a “huge spike” in demand from wealthy buyers wanting to explore the deep and get up close to coral reefs, stingrays and whales.

There is a growing number of super-rich, she said, who want more than to merely luxuriate in their good fortune. “The super-rich aren’t happy to sit on the back of their yachts with a G&T anymore. The modern ones and the young ones want to go to Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands,” she said. “They want to see what’s beneath the surface as well as what’s on top. They have seen Blue Planet, and they want to get down there and see it for themselves.”

Harrison told hundreds of delegates attending the Superyacht Investor conference in London this week that submersible manufacturers had their best year in 2017, as there has been “definitive change in direction among owners to use their superyachts for new experiences”.

“The industry sold 25-30 submersibles last year,” she said. “It may not sound like a lot but they are priced at a minimum of £1m and up to £30m. It is a lot of money.”

The Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and the US hedge fund manger Ray Dalio are among billionaires who have already splashed out on underwater vessels. Indeed, one may not be enough: Dalio said he was so “wild about ocean exploration” that he bought two submersibles, which were used in the filming of the second series of Blue Planet.

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“The underwater world is much larger than the above-water world, has more unidentified species than the above-water world, is essential to our wellbeing, is incredibly interesting and valuable, and is mostly unexplored,” said Dalio, the world’s 90th richest person with a $14.6bn (£10.3bn) fortune.

“For those reasons, and for the thrill of it, I am wild about ocean exploration. I explore the ocean personally while tagging along with great ocean scientists and explorers, and I financially support ocean exploration that goes on way beyond me – including sharing these thrills with the public through various media outlets and museum exhibits.”

Dalio’s submersibles – named Nadir and Deep Rover – are based on his $50m expedition-focused superyacht, Alucia.

The Nadir is a Triton 3300/3 model capable of diving to a depth of 1,000 metres with a pilot and two passengers on board and sells for about $3m depending on fixtures and fittings. “Yes, it’s a lot of money,” Harrison said. “But do you want to go diving in a cheap submersible?”

Harrison said the growth in submersibles had been driven by a rapid improvement in acrylic technology, which means they can be fitted with large clear bubble domes, giving a 360-degree views of the ocean. “When you’re underwater the acrylic sort of disappears and you feel like you are actually in the ocean. It’s a bit dreamlike when you’re down there,” she said. “The acrylic is the expensive bit, as the technology has only recently got so advanced that you can go that deep. It is very, very expensive stuff – you don’t want to scratch it.”

Harrison said most customers say they are interested in buying submersibles for exploration, but some have also inquired about using them as “panic rooms or escape vessels”.

The submersible ‘Nadir’ used by Blue Planet II team to film the Deep episode. It was one of many subs used to film the series



The submersible ‘Nadir’ used by Blue Planet II team to film the Deep episode. It was one of many subs used to film the series. Photograph: Luis Lamar

Triton’s biggest competitor, Holland’s U-Boat Worx, has designed an ultra-lightweight submersible model specifically for superyachts. Its Super Yacht Sub Three is piloted from the rear so the passengers can get the best view of the ocean from the front of the bubble dome. The company said: “This submarine is aimed at the yacht market ... [it] delivers both performance and luxury.”

Triton, which is based in Florida, has partnered with British luxury car group Aston Martin to work on a new $4m three-man submersible codenamed Project Neptune. The subs, which are expected to hit the market later this year, will dive to 1,650ft and have a top speed of 3.5 miles an hour.

Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s chief creative officer, said the company had decided to expand into submersibles following interest expressed by its richest customers. “Those superyacht people, what they want to experience is changing,” he said. “It’s no longer about just having a launch or having your tender. It’s about having some other way of entertaining your guests.”

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National Audit Office to investigate East Coast rail ‘bailout’

Watchdog to look at decision to allow Virgin and Stagecoach to hand back franchise early

Campaigners protest in King’s Cross station, London against the decision to terminate the East Coast franchise early.






Campaigners protest in King’s Cross station, London against the decision to terminate the East Coast franchise early.
Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowic/Barcroft Images

A controversial decision to allow two companies to hand back a rail franchise three years early is to be investigated by Britain’s public spending watchdog.

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was accused of effectively bailing out Stagecoach and Virgin’s joint venture Virgin Trains East Coast by allowing them to cut short their deal to run trains on the East Coast mainline. The termination of the franchise came after projected growth in passengers failed to materialise.

The decision means that the companies were freed from paying around £1.5bn in premiums to the Treasury, though some of the money will be recouped when a new operator is put in place. Virgin and Stagecoach complained that promised upgrades to the line had been delayed.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has announced it has launched an official investigation of the way the Department for Transport (DfT) has handled the franchise. Industry insiders said that crucial delays had meant ministers were left with no choice but to allow the companies to give up managing the line in 2020, three years early.

The DfT has insisted that taxpayers will not be facing any additional costs as a result of the decision. However, any criticism from the NAO will be another blow to Grayling, who has also faced questions over his decision to hand contracts to a consortium that included the doomed construction giant Carillion after serious problems emerged with its viability. Carillion has since folded.

Andrew Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary, told the Observer at the end of last year that Grayling should have faced the sack for his handling of the East Coast mainline. However, Grayling kept his job in Theresa May’s recent reshuffle.

The NAO is expected to report its findings in the spring. It said: “We expect to examine the department’s management of the franchise to date and the implications of its plans for the new ‘partnership’ [to run the line after 2020].”

National Audit Office to investigate East Coast rail ‘bailout’

Watchdog to look at decision to allow Virgin and Stagecoach to hand back franchise early

Campaigners protest in King’s Cross station, London against the decision to terminate the East Coast franchise early.






Campaigners protest in King’s Cross station, London against the decision to terminate the East Coast franchise early.
Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowic/Barcroft Images

A controversial decision to allow two companies to hand back a rail franchise three years early is to be investigated by Britain’s public spending watchdog.

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was accused of effectively bailing out Stagecoach and Virgin’s joint venture Virgin Trains East Coast by allowing them to cut short their deal to run trains on the East Coast mainline. The termination of the franchise came after projected growth in passengers failed to materialise.

The decision means that the companies were freed from paying around £1.5bn in premiums to the Treasury, though some of the money will be recouped when a new operator is put in place. Virgin and Stagecoach complained that promised upgrades to the line had been delayed.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has announced it has launched an official investigation of the way the Department for Transport (DfT) has handled the franchise. Industry insiders said that crucial delays had meant ministers were left with no choice but to allow the companies to give up managing the line in 2020, three years early.

The DfT has insisted that taxpayers will not be facing any additional costs as a result of the decision. However, any criticism from the NAO will be another blow to Grayling, who has also faced questions over his decision to hand contracts to a consortium that included the doomed construction giant Carillion after serious problems emerged with its viability. Carillion has since folded.

Andrew Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary, told the Observer at the end of last year that Grayling should have faced the sack for his handling of the East Coast mainline. However, Grayling kept his job in Theresa May’s recent reshuffle.

The NAO is expected to report its findings in the spring. It said: “We expect to examine the department’s management of the franchise to date and the implications of its plans for the new ‘partnership’ [to run the line after 2020].”

Davos 2018: Cate Blanchett calls for more help for refugees – live updates

Technology will widen pay gap and hit women hardest – Davos report

Research into jobs finds men’s dominance in IT and biotech is reversing trend towards equality

Female engineers assembling robotics in factory






Women are struggling to break into high-growth industries such as IT, biotech and infrastructure.
Photograph: Getty/Hero

The gulf between men and women at work – in both pay and status – is likely to widen unless action is taken to tackle inequality in high-growth sectors such as technology, say researchers at this week’s World Economic Forum summit in Davos.

A new WEF report on the future of jobs finds the dominance of men in industries such as information and biotechnology, coupled with the enduring failure of women to rise to the top even in the health and education sectors, is helping to reverse gender equality after years of improvements.

The report estimates that 57% of the jobs set to be displaced by technology between now and 2026 belong to women. According to Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of education, gender and work, this underlines that global efforts to reduce gender inequality in business are stalling.

“We’re really looking at a worsening of inequality, particularly in IT but across all sectors,” Zahidi said. “We are losing valuable opportunity to reduce gender inequality.”

The warning comes at a historic moment in the 47-year history of Davos: for the first time, the annual gathering of the world’s political and financial leaders in the Swiss mountain resort will have all-female co-chairs, in an attempt to increase awareness of longstanding gender and other inequalities in business and wider society.

The seven women chosen to lead the meeting come from all sectors of society: from the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, to Chetna Sinha, an Indian social entrepreneur focused on micro-finance for female entrepreneurs.

Davos co-chair Sharan Burrow leads the world’s largest trade union federation.



Davos co-chair Sharan Burrow leads the world’s largest trade union federation. Photograph: Jacky Delorme/IUTC

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and another of the seven co-chairs, said the fact that no men have been appointed to any of the meeting’s strategic roles this year “sends a strong signal that all is not right with the world”.

Burrow, an Australian union leader who described herself in her acceptance speech in 2010 as a “warrior for women”, said recent events had made it even more important to speak up for gender equality in the workplace and society at large. “We saw a wave of misogyny unleashed last year and it’s been allowed to escalate by government and corporations,” she told the Guardian.

The US president Donald Trump, who is expected to attend Davos this week, was “partly responsible for unleashing” this wave, she added.

Despite introducing a quota in 2011 designed to increase the number of female delegates attending, men continue to dominate Davos. Just 21% of some 3,000 delegates are women.

The WEF’s annual gender gap report at the end of last year calculated that the gulf between male and female opportunity had widened for first time since it started gathering data in 2006. “The global economic model has failed working people and failed women more than most,” Burrow said. “In the world of work, using any set of indicators, progress for women has stagnated. This has been driven by corporate greed and profit, more than anything.”

Chetna Sinha, the founder and chair of the Mann Deshi Foundation, believes that the all-female panel will bring gender inequality into “the heart of the corporate/business world, and that’s a really useful thing”.

She is particularly keen to ensure that “voices of poor women” are heard, adding that the panel emphasises the diversity of experience at Davos, with non-governmental and grassroots organisations joining the political and business leaders. “At Davos, I see myself representing the fractured world,” she said.

Despite introducing a quota in 2011, just 21% of 3,000 delegates at Davos are women.



Despite the introduction of a quota, just 21% of 3,000 delegates at Davos are women. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty

Zahidi, whose team’s report on the future of work is published on Monday, identified two potential causes for the stalled progression of women in business. First, the fact there are fewer women working in high-growth areas such as IT, biotech and infrastructure, leading to a “smaller pipeline” even as larger numbers of women are going into higher education to study the relevant subjects.

Second, Zahidi said that even in high-growth sectors which typically employ lots of women – such as education, health and the care sector – the “leadership positions are still dominated by men”.

Despite widespread warnings about increasing automation – robots (real and virtual) doing the work of human beings – hitting so-called blue collar jobs in manufacturing, less has been said about “pink collar” jobs in customer service and administration typically held by women. Zahidi said corporations needed to consider organisational change at all levels of the workplace. “It needs a holistic approach from companies when thinking about gender equality – not just board-level positions. Diversity leads to creativity, which is even more necessary in a world undergoing an industrial revolution,” she said.

Each year, studies such as one from accountancy firm Grant Thornton in 2015, Women in business: the value of diversity, point out that companies perform better when they have at least one woman on the board. Yet change has been glacial and, after years of some improvement, is beginning to stall.

Mervyn Davies, the former senior banker and minister whose 2011 report set a 25% target for women on FTSE-100 boards, is not attending Davos this year. He applauds efforts to increase participation at the meeting, and believes any future progress will be led by “upwardly focused activism” rather than the old model, exemplified by Davos, of “downward discussion”.

“I think the mood of society is really changing very speedily. We are at a tipping point where the up-and-coming generation is going to say ‘we’re not going to tolerate this,’ ” Lord Davies said, adding, “We’ve got to get women back in all workplaces.”

Two years after his final report on the issue, Davies talked about the entrenched opinions he faced even as a successful chairman of a leading bank, Standard Chartered. “I faced a huge amount of hostility from men. I was a member of their club and because I was an insider they accused me of being an agent provocateur from the inside.”

His final report called for one third of all FTSE-350 boards to be held by women.

Despite the signs of stagnation, both Davies and Zahidi, who last year authored a book about the impact of more women joining the workforce in the Muslim world, are optimistic, partly because of the next generation. “The fact there has been a very public conversation around sexual harassment, around the #MeToo and the Time’sUp movements – all of this reflects the fact that a much larger number of people care about the influence of power,” said Zahidi. “There is now positive momentum and we need to make sure material change is achieved.”

Zahidi points out that among the younger people attending Davos, the so-called global leaders and global shapers, 54% are women.

Arriving in Davos, Burrow said: “We have the power in our hands to really change. The question is, do we have the courage?”

World-changing women? The seven Davos co-chairs

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.


Christine Lagarde
Managing director of the IMF
The French lawyer and former cabinet minister has been the head of the International Monetary Fund since 2011, when she replaced the scandal-hit Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Re-elected for a second five-year term in 2016, she is regularly ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbesmagazine.

Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty
Chief-executive of IBM
Having started as a systems engineer in 1981, Rometty worked in sales, marketing and strategy before becoming the first woman to lead the head IBM in 2011. One of the best paid executives in the US – she earned $33m (nearly £24m) last year – she has faced mounting criticism for taking pay bonuses despite huge employee layoffs.

Sarah Burrow

Sharan Burrow
General-secretary of International Trade Union Confederation
The Australian was the first woman to become general secretary of the Brussels-based ITUC, the world’s largest trade union federation with 180 million workers in 162 countries and territories. This self-styled “warrior for women” has worked on several campaigns for workers’ rights in the growing digital economy.

Chetna Sinha

Chetna Sinha
Founder/chair of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank
The Mumbai-born social activist set up a bank that lends tiny sums to women in rural India after meeting a woman unable to save because other institutions thought her aim – to buy a tarpaulin to shelter her family during the monsoon – was too small. Singha’s bank, the first run for and by rural women to get a co-operative banking licence, has reached hundreds of thousands of women.

Erna Solberg

Erna Solberg
Prime minister of Norway
Elected Norway’s second female prime minister in 2013 after serving as leader of the Conservative party since May 2004. As minister for local government, a tough stance on the country’s asylum policy earned her the nickname “Jern-Erna” (Iron Erna). Subsequently involved in the decision to reject a request for asylum by the Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Solberg was re-elected last year.

Fabiola Gianotti

Fabiola Gianotti
Director-general of Cern
In 2016, the Italian particle physicist became the first woman to run Cern – the pan-European nuclear research organisation best known for its large hadron collider. Always ranks high on lists of global thinkers and most influential scientists – of either gender.

Isabelle Kocher

Isabelle Kocher
Chief-executive of Engie
The only female CEO in the CAC 40, the benchmark French stock market, Kocher has led a radical transformation of the energy group formerly known as GDF Suez since her appointment in 2016. Having decided Engie should “take its responsibility” over climate change, she has sold 20% of its assets, notably in coal power. She also set internal targets for at least a quarter of Engie executives, and 35% of “high-potential staff” to be women.

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Theresa May: I will fine greedy bosses who betray their workers

PM pledges tough rules to tackle pensions abuse
Whitehall weighs up plan to target executives

Theresa May arrives for an official dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.






Theresa May arrives for an official dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Photograph: Peter Nicholls/AP

Irresponsible company bosses who “line their own pockets” while failing to protect workers’ pension schemes are to be hit with huge fines, under plans to be announced by Theresa May’s government within weeks.

Writing in the Observer after a week which saw the collapse of Carillion, the construction and outsourcing giant, with a deficit in its pension scheme of up to £900m, the prime minister says her government will act urgently to stamp out “abuse”.

A total of 28,000 members of Carillion’s 13 pension schemes are facing a cut to their retirement funds.

Other measures being considered for inclusion in a white paper in March would give regulators new powers to block or place conditions on takeovers that are deemed to put pension schemes at risk. The regulator will also be given the power to request information about how companies run schemes.

Resurrecting a commitment with which she launched her premiership – to govern “not for a privileged few, but for every one of us” – May says that while governments should not get involved in day-to-day management of businesses, the state should act now “in favour of ordinary working people”.

While the measures will be welcomed by millions of workers, May’s move to intervene directly in the financial affairs of companies is likely to antagonise Tory backers in the City.

Referring to company bosses who put their own financial interests, and those of shareholders, above their workers, May says “tough new rules” will be introduced to tackle the behaviour of “executives who try to line their own pockets by putting their workers’ pensions at risk – an unacceptable abuse that we will end”.

It is understood that the pensions regulator will be given specific powers to issue punitive fines on company directors in cases of clear wrongdoing. Criticising a business culture which too often prioritises immediate financial rewards over long-term stability, she adds: “Too often we’ve seen top executives reaping big bonuses for recklessly putting short-term profit ahead of long-term success. Our best businesses know that is not a responsible way to run a business and those who do so will be forced to explain themselves.”

Among radical potential measures that have been discussed in Whitehall are plans that would leave individual executives personally liable for hefty financial punishments if their companies’ pension schemes collapse. One proposal is for regulators to be empowered to claw back executives’ bonuses after a company and its pension system go to the wall.

The all-party work and pensions committee has recommended a system of “mega fines” on executives who crash their companies and their pension schemes. The committee chair, the Labour MP Frank Field, says such fines would act as a “nuclear deterrent” against abuse and negligent approaches to pensions.

Steve Webb, a former pensions minister and now director of policy at the pensions company Royal London, said: “The last Conservative manifesto floated ideas of tackling firms who put executive pay and dividends ahead of the pension fund, and the Carillion scandal has given that new urgency.

“The prime minister will want to see bonuses clawed back from executives who steer a company onto the rocks, and will want new powers to block takeovers that could threaten the pension scheme. The government could also make sure that ‘recovery plans’ to tackle pension scheme deficits are tougher, putting the pension fund further up the queue relative to dividends and bonuses.

“The Treasury and the business department will be hostile to these sorts of ideas and will not want regulators interfering in the business decisions of corporate Britain. Despite the idealistic rhetoric, I would expect any actual action to be some years away and reserved only for the most extreme cases.”

May’s pledge comes as she faces renewed criticism from some Tory MPs for a lack of willingness to back radical policies. Nick Boles, a former minister, warned last week of a timidity at the heart of her administration.

Field said: “The prime minister said when she first entered Downing Street that she would be on the side of hardworking British people and those who were the underdogs.

“The reforms suggested by the committee – including mega-fines on individuals who crash their companies and pension funds – gives her an opportunity to get on the front foot with this agenda.”

Parliamentary inquiries are already being set up into how the funding shortfall in Carillion’s pension scheme widened before the business’s spectacular collapse. Its deficit rose from £317m in 2015 to £587m by the end of 2016. The final figure is believed to be high as £900m.

With its pension problems mounting, Carillion controversially changed the rules in 2016 to prevent any clawing back of executives’ bonuses should the business eventually collapse.

The government has come under pressure to limit the damage to pension funds from reckless employers since the collapse in 2016 of BHS, the retailer that went into administration with a large black hole in its final salary retirement scheme – and despite paying hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends to its owner Sir Philip Green’s wife, Tina.A consultation green paper last year signalled that ministers planned to get tough with employers who failed to tackle large deficits in their pension funds.

Employers’ lobby groups have argued that increased powers for the pensions regulator would give it undue influence in the running of companies already struggling to juggle the competing demands of shareholders, employees and the need to invest in new equipment. They have pushed back against proposals to allow the regulator to block executive bonuses and dividend payments, arguing that they are intrusive and draconian limits on private enterprises.

A pensions expert, John Ralfe, said the regulator was unlikely to want extra powers that could lead it into protracted disputes with companies about the level of payouts to shareholders and directors.

He said the government should move from a “DIY regulation that judges each scheme on an individual basis” to a blanket rule that forces all final salary pension schemes to measure their liabilities in the same way and reduce deficits over the same time.

Currently, the regulator agrees a separate plan with each employer to determine how long it needs to close its pension deficit. This can range from five to 20 years.