NO one disputes that senior company executives should be well paid. They are in positions of great responsibility and should be rewarded accordingly.

The salary regime in the boardroom of GlaxoSmithKline, however, is obscenely excessive.

The annual basic pay of its chief executive, even though it runs into seven figures, can be justified.

GSK is a major international business, employing tens of thousands of people. In such a competitive market it is necessary to come up with a remuneration package able to attract and retain the right person.

After all it amounts to a tiny fraction of the yearly turnover of GSK.

What cannot be justified, however, is a contract which promises to pay the chief executive up to £22m even if he is forced to leave the company because of poor performance.

Thankfully, the shareholders of GSK have had the courage and decency to make their opposition known.

Although the wishes of investors are not binding on the directors, we expect the GSK board to take note of last night's unprecedented protest vote and amend their executive salary structure.

Likewise, we hope that other companies, equally guilty of 'fat cat' excesses, also take note.

The message is clear to company directors. They need to act voluntarily to control reward schemes to ensure they are genuinely performance related.

And if they fail to heed this warning, then the Government must introduce legislation to force them to do so.

At all levels of business there is nothing wrong with incentive payments which top up basic wages.

If companies like GSK increase profits, see share prices rise and raise dividend payouts to shareholders, then the chief executive and his boardroom colleagues should be rewarded.

However, they should not be rewarded for failure.

Promising to pay someone £22m if they are dismissed for poor performance runs counter to the concept of incentives.

Such a scheme treats excellence and moderation as equals, and GSK shareholders are right to voice their disapproval.