Jeremy Corbyn calls for maximum wage law

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has called for a maximum wage for the highest earners, saying he fears Brexit will see the UK become a “grossly unequal, bargain basement economy” the Guardian reports.

The Labour leader would not give specific figures, but said radical action was needed to address inequality. “I would like there to be some kind of high earnings cap, quite honestly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

When asked at what level the cap should be set, he replied: “I can’t put a figure on it and I don’t want to at the moment. The point I’m trying to make is that we have the worst levels of income disparity of most of the OECD countries.

“It is getting worse. And corporate taxation is a part of it. If we want to live in a more egalitarian society, and fund our public services, we cannot go on creating worse levels of inequality.”

In a speech later on Tuesday, Corbyn will claim that Britain can be better off outside the EU and insist that Labour has no principled objection to ending the free movement of European workers in the UK.

However, his preference for a maximum income law will overshadow the announcements for the party’s policy on Brexit, even though Corbyn had expressed his view on the issue before, during his leadership campaign.

“It’s a kind of philosophical question really. There ought to be a maximum wage. The levels of inequality in Britain are getting worse,” he told the Herald in 2015.

Corbyn stressed he was not announcing a specific policy on a law to limit income, but said he had “got a view on it”.

Pressed again, he said: “I would like to see a maximum earnings limit, quite honestly, because I think that would be a fairer thing to do. Because we cannot set ourselves up as being a grossly unequal, bargain basement economy on the shores of Europe.

“We have to be something that is more egalitarian, gives real opportunities to everybody and properly funds our public services.”

The party leader earlier told Good Morning Britain that his planned speech on migration was not a “sea change” in his previous thinking, but declined to go into specifics about a new Labour immigration policy.

Asked about proposals from the backbenchers Emma Reynolds and Stephen Kinnock for a two-tier system, with easier paths for skilled migrants and caps on unskilled migrants, Corbyn said: “They have put forward fairly specific ideas. What I have is the end of exploitation and undercutting.”

Corbyn said the aim of his speech was to give “clear definition that we protect the working conditions and wage levels that are here” for any migration system post-Brexit.

“Some companies – particularly in the construction industry – are making a fortune out of getting rid of workers in this country on one set of pay and conditions and bringing in others to replace them,” he said. “That creates awful tensions in those communities.”

In his speech in Peterborough, a marginal Tory seat that voted heavily to leave the EU, Corbyn will say his party wants “managed migration” and to repatriate powers from Brussels that would allow governments to intervene in struggling industries, such as steel, which is currently prohibited by state aid rules.

Corbyn will say Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle. “But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European single market on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations,” he will say.

“Labour supports fair rules and reasonably managed migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU.”

Kinnock said he welcomed Corbyn’s comments about the principles of free movement. “The Labour party exists in order to shape and regulate markets so that they serve the common good, and a properly regulated labour market can only exist if it is supported by a system of managed migration,” he said.

“For all of us who believe that migration benefits our country, the core question is how to rebuild public confidence in it. I hope that Jeremy and his team will now look at the two-tier system that Emma Reynolds and I have proposed, as the right policy through which to realise our shared values and aims.”

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green party, said Corbyn’s stance on free movement was “capitulation to the Tories”.

“The Labour party is handing the post-referendum process to the Conservatives on a plate,” she said. “At a time when we need a real opposition more than ever, we’re seeing Labour dancing to the Tories’ Brexit tune. The Green party will continue to defend free movement, and stand up for the rights of people from across Europe who have come here to live, work and study.”