Starmer dodges questions on corporation tax and re-nationalisation

Common ownership and corporation tax rises were two of his leadership pledges.

Keir Starmer has avoided questions on whether Labour will oppose an increase in the corporation tax rate and whether he would re-nationalise key sections of the economy.

In a highly-publicised policy speech, Starmer said that a return to austerity would “choke off the economy” and that the deficit should be reduced slowly instead.

The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot then asked him: “Does that mean that Labour would oppose any attempt in Rishi Sunak’s budget to raise corporation tax?”

Starmer replied that tax rises “risk throttling off the recovery of the economy” but did not directly answer the question about corporation tax.

Last September, Starmer’s spokesperson told reporters it was “absolutely the wrong time to be talking about tax rises” and the government should not be “floating ideas for new tax rises”.

When Starmer was running for Labour leader, one of his ten pledges was to “reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax”.

When the Tories took over government in 2010, the corporation tax rate was 26%. Chancellor George Osborne gradually reduced this to its present rate of 19%. This is one of the lowest in the developed world.

According to the Financial Times, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering raising the tax rate to help re-coup money spent during the pandemic. Each % point rise would bring in an estimate £3.4bn a year.

Jessica Elgot also asked how Labour’s relationship with business would be different to the Conservatives and “do you still believe that there’s a role for re-nationalisation of key industries”?

Starmer said there was a “world of difference” between the government’s policies and what Labour would do but he did not address the re-nationalisation question specifically.

One of his leadership campaign pledges was titled “common ownership”. It said: “Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.”

Asked about this pledge, he recently told the Ham and High podcast: “I used the term ‘common ownership’ because I actually think there are different forms of ownership. I’m very strong on co-ops etc. But at the moment what’s in my sights is the fork in the road and the transformation we’re going to have to make coming out of this pandemic.”

Starmer’s speech also called for a new ‘British Recovery Bond’ to help savers and help finance the recovery of the UK economy.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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