LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn today mocked the Conservative’s government handling of the public sector pay debate, describing Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet as “odd” and divided.
Speaking to Business Insider the Labour leader refused to be drawn on whether ministers who want the pay freeze to be scrapped should resign but accused the government of fighting over a policy that is “hugely damaging” to Britain.
Asked whether government ministers who want the pay cap to be scrapped ought to resign from the cabinet, Corbyn told BI: “Well, what Mrs May does with her cabinet is her business.
“But it seems a little odd that several members of the cabinet are calling for an end to the public sector pay cap and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says the exact opposite. Interesting.”
The Labour leader added: “The pay cap is damaging to public service and damaging to those working within the public service and damaging to all of us. If there is not enough nurses, not enough firefighters, and not enough police officers then it’s us that suffer.”
Over the past week, cabinet ministers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have urged May and Chancellor Philip Hammond to consider scrapping the freeze to public sector pay rises that has been in place since 2010.
May failed to fully clarify during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions whether the cap will be scrapped and instead attacked Corbyn’s economic policies. The prime minister told the House of Commons:
“Let me remind the Right Hon Gentleman of what happens when you don’t deal with the deficit, it’s not a theoretical issue…in Greece where they haven’t dealt with the deficit, what did we see? Spending on the health service cut by 36% — that doesn’t help nurses or patients.”
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss also failed to clarify the government’s position when asked about the pay cap during a parliamentary session later in the day. She told MPs:”Our policy on public sector pay has always been designed to strike the right balance between pay for the public sector workers and taxpayers who pay for it.”
The cap was introduced by former prime minister David Cameron in 2010 and has resulted in public sector pay being frozen at one per cent rises for the last seven years. Corbyn used a speech at the Business And Education Summit to criticise the cap and other austerity measures Conservative governments have implemented over the last seven years.
Addressing the British Chamber of Commerce summit in central London on Thursday morning, the Labour leader said a government under his leadership would focus on “investment” in the public sector and in education. “We will scrap the public sector pay cap,” Corbyn told business and education representatives.
“We need public institutions, public investment and public enterprise to work with business to manage the social and economic effects of rapid technological change so that it benefits the many not the few.”
The Labour leader also again dismissed concerns that raising corporation tax will force companies to relocate to elsewhere in Europe. Corbyn seeks to raise corporation tax in Britain to 26% while in France, President Macron is reportedly considering lowering corporation tax in order to attract big businesses in the post-Brexit era.