In 2009, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) issued a number of consultations looking at areas for improvement to governance practices in the UK’s largest companies. National Grid has participated fully in these consultations and used them as an opportunity to consider further the governance and effectiveness of its Board and Committees. Good corporate governance is at the heart of the Company’s drive to deliver shareholder value. We aim to be at the forefront of best practice in order to promote the success of the business using the Combined Code on Corporate Governance, soon to be updated and renamed the UK Corporate Governance Code, as a guide to the components of good practice.
As a Board, my fellow Directors and I are committed to the highest standards of corporate governance. As you would expect, we do not always do this as stand-alone items on our agendas, but instead we consider good governance to be part of our ongoing decision-making process. By embedding strong governance into our routine processes, we are doing our utmost to secure the future wellbeing of the Company.
Our review of the December 2009 FRC Consultation on the revised UK Corporate Governance Code, which primarily captures the lessons learned from the governance failures of the UK’s banking and financial institutions that can be applied to the benefit of all companies, showed that National Grid is in a strong position to comply with the provisions of that Code. However, as would currently be the case with the Combined Code, if we do not think compliance with a particular provision is in the best interests of the Company or our shareholders we will of course explain our good reasons for this.
For many years now, in recognition of the Company’s risk profile we have had, in addition to the required Audit Committee, both a separate Risk & Responsibility and a Finance Committee. These Committees probe into a considerable range of operational and financing issues that impact safety, health, environment, sustainability, policies and control mechanisms. These debates lead to direct reporting of findings and recommendations to the Board following each meeting.
Again this year we have carried out an in depth review of the Board’s effectiveness and have produced, as we have done for several years, an action plan to ensure constant improvement. This year an external specialist in global corporate governance reviewed the process and I am proud to report that he concluded that we are in line with top quartile best practice globally, see performance evaluation.
The Nominations Committee continues to consider if the Board has the right breadth of skills, experience and domain knowledge to secure the necessary level of challenge on key business decisions and risks that confront the Company, together with appropriate insight to enhance executive performance. It also considers Non-executive Director attendance at meetings and time spent on Company business and the influence and ability of each Non-executive Director to challenge the Executive Directors. I believe the Board continues to be focused on sound governance practices and that we have the right composition and skillset in our Directors to ensure the Board performs effectively, to enable us to respond to the challenges we face. To further enhance our processes, we will introduce annual re-election of the Chairman and all Directors from the 2010 Annual General Meeting (AGM) onwards.
Sir John Parker