THE public sense in Britain that something must be done to rein-in the high salaries and excessive bonuses of senior banking officials is growing. The chairmen and CEOs of banks are proving to be a thick-skinned lot, apparently unaware or uncaring about the displeasure and anger that their behaviour causes. Yesterday a letter from the pressure group Compass, a coalition of campaigners, trade unionists and academics, appeared in The Guardian with about 100 signatures. It called for government action to regulate high pay and benefits, perhaps initially by creating a version of the quite successful Low Pay Commission of 1977, but with rather different objectives.

It is as easy to see the attraction of such a Commission as it is to see the objections to it. Whatever else they may be, bankers are not stupid, and they would quickly find ways round any kind of financial restraint placed on them.

Perhaps a more subtle approach is needed. Bankers are frequent recipients of honours from her Majesty the Queen - knighthoods and so on. The Queen is advised on these matters by others and it would not be impossible to arrange that the bi-annual flow of honours' recommendations dried up. Other social sanctions in the power of government could be quietly applied until the message was received and understood. Stop being greedy!


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