Theresa May’s Government is in the “pockets of a super-rich elite” and must do more to end the “scandal of inequality in modern Britain”, according to Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader claimed poverty levels for children and pensioners are rising while the Conservative Party continues to receive millions of pounds from hedge fund tycoons.
But the Prime Minister argued the top 1% of earners in the country are paying more in income tax than under a Labour government, and she said the Opposition’s £10 an hour minimum wage pledge for all workers could “cost” young people jobs.
She added Labour’s consideration of a universal basic income would also result in “handouts to hedge fund managers” being paid for by “tax hikes” on low-earning workers.
The pair once again ignored Brexit during their exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, with the two main parties still seeking to break the deadlock.
The session began in slightly farcical fashion after Mr Corbyn apologised for starting “a parliamentary sing-along” after quoting the entertainer Doris Day, who died this week.
After encouragement from the backbenches, he recited a line in the song The Deadwood Stage from the film Calamity Jane, saying: “Alright, whip-crack away!”
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn went on to say: “In the last two years, nine of the richest hedge fund tycoons have donated £2.9 million to the Conservative Party.
“Is this a Government for the many or in the pockets of an elite few?”
Mrs May hit back by saying that “income inequality is down since 2010” when the Tories came into office, adding her party “wants everyone to be better off, everyone to have good jobs and everyone to have a better life”.
Mr Corbyn also warned more food banks are opening in the UK, adding: “In Great Yarmouth, one has just been opened for pupils at a school, and last week the department of business established a food bank for its own staff in the building on Victoria Street.
“Can the Prime Minister tell us what is going wrong in modern Britain that a Government office in the centre of London has a food bank for some of its very low-paid staff to get something to eat?”
The PM sidestepped the question as she opted to defend the Government’s record on the economy, before noting: “The way (Mr Corbyn) talks you would think that inequality started in 2010.”
She went on to highlight criticism by Mr Corbyn of the last Labour government’s record on dealing with inequality.
Mr Corbyn later urged Mrs May to restore the link between inflation and social security to “try to reduce the disgraceful levels of child poverty” in the country.
In his concluding remarks, the Labour leader said: “When the wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has increased by £50 billion in one year but there’s not enough money to properly feed our children or pay workers a decent wage, then we have failed as a society.
“This country is seeing the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, while the Government is in the pockets of a super-rich elite.
“More children in poverty, more pensioners in poverty, more people struggling to make ends meet – when is she and her Government going to reverse the tax giveaways to the super-rich and make sure they pay their fair share of taxes so we can end the scandal of inequality in modern Britain?”
Mrs May reiterated the top 1% are paying more in income tax than they did under a Labour government, adding: “The Labour Party has a plan for a system where everybody in this country would get benefits.
“That means handouts to hedge fund managers paid for by tax hikes on working people. Labour’s policy: money for the rich paid by taxes on the poor.”