Labour to accuse Boris Johnson of siding with billionaires

UK prime minister claims NHS is top priority and says he will postpone corporate tax cuts

Britain's two main parties have clashed on tax policy, with Labour accusing the Conservatives of giving £100 billion in tax breaks to big corporations and the super-rich while taking donations from one in three of the country's billionaires.

Boris Johnson on Monday abandoned a plan to cut Britain's corporate tax rate from 19 per cent to 17 per cent and said he would spend the money saved on public services. But shadow chancellor John McDonnell will on Tuesday claim that the Conservatives' policies would amount to tax breaks for billionaires and big firms worth £100 billion by 2023-2024.

“If someone gave you £1 every 10 seconds, it would take you more than 300 years to become a billionaire. Someone on the national minimum wage would have to work 69,000 years to get paid £1 billion, and a newly qualified nurse would have to wait 50,000 years,” Mr McDonnell will say.

Corbyn's Labour have revealed their true colours. They want to stop people from passing on their family homes to their children after they die

“No one needs or deserves to have that much money, it is obscene. It is also obscene that these billionaires are buying access and tax breaks to Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. We know whose side Boris Johnson is on – the billionaires, the bankers and big business.”


Treasury minister Simon Clarke dismissed Labour's calculations as bogus and said the top 1 per cent were carrying a greater share of the tax burden under the Conservatives than under the last Labour government.

“Corbyn’s Labour have revealed their true colours. They want to stop people from passing on their family homes to their children after they die. Rather than helping people to succeed, they want to take away your family home in higher taxes. Their plans would not hit billionaires – they would overwhelmingly hurt hard-pressed families,” he said.

NHS ‘priority’

The prime minister announced his U-turn on corporate tax in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, claiming that keeping the rate at 19 per cent would save £6 billion. Until now, Conservatives have consistently argued that cutting the corporate tax rate would bring in higher tax receipts because it would generate more economic activity.

“The NHS is the nation’s priority, and our priority. And because we believe emphatically in fiscal prudence. I hope you won’t mind if I also announce today that we are postponing further cuts in corporation tax,” Mr Johnson said.

"And before you storm the stage and protest, let me remind you that this saves £6 billion, which we can put into the priorities of the British people, including the NHS. The alternative is Jeremy Corbyn, who would whack it straight back up to the highest levels in Europe. "

Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn will face one another on Tuesday evening in Manchester in the first leaders' debate of the campaign, broadcast on ITV at 8pm. A court on Monday rejected an appeal from the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats to be included in the debate, the first of two featuring only the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times