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Corbyn presses May on low pay and ‘already weakening’ economy

The Labour leader told the Prime Minister to take a reality check with regard to the economy.

Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to “take a check with reality” as he warned low pay is a threat to an “already weakening” economy.

Labour MPs could also be heard shouting “Give them a pay rise” after the Prime Minister praised the emergency services for their response to the recent terror attacks.

Mr Corbyn also prompted Tory MPs to shout “Look behind you” after he criticised Cabinet “bickering and backbiting”.

Public sector pay featured heavily in the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the summer recess, with Mr Corbyn highlighting reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond told a Cabinet meeting that public sector workers are “overpaid” when their pensions are taken into account.

He jokingly asked Mrs May if she believed Mr Hammond was referring to her own ministers, before telling MPs: “The Conservatives have been in office for 84 months – 52 of those months have seen a real fall in wages and income in our country.”

Mr Corbyn quoted Mrs May’s pre-election pledge to ensure everyone would feel the benefits of a strong economy, asking: “Do you agree you cannot have a strong economy when six million people are earning less than the living wage?”

Mrs May replied: “I’ll tell you when you can’t have a strong economy, it’s when you adopt Labour Party policies of half-a-trillion pounds extra borrowing which will mean more spending, more borrowing, higher prices, higher taxes and fewer jobs.

“The Labour government crashed the economy, the Conservative Government has come in – more people in work, more people in jobs, more investment.”

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This was the final Prime Minister's Questions before the summer recess (PA Wire)

Mr Corbyn countered: “Can I invite the Prime Minister to take a check with reality on this?”

“One in eight workers in the United Kingdom, that is 3.8 million people, in work now living in poverty, 55% of people living in poverty are in working households.

“The Prime Minister’s lack of touch with reality goes like this – low pay in Britain is holding people back at a time of rising housing costs, rising food prices and rising transport costs.

“It threatens people’s living standards and rising consumer debt and falling savings threatens our economic stability.

“Why doesn’t the Prime Minister understand that low pay is a threat to an already weakening economy?”

Mrs May said three million more jobs have been created since 2010, adding that the so-called national living wage – an increased minimum wage – offered the “biggest pay increase for people on lowest incomes ever”.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond during Prime Minister's Questions (PA Wire)

She added: “When did the Labour Party ever introduce the national living wage? Never. That was a Conservative government and a Conservative record.”

Mr Corbyn replied: “It was Labour that first introduced the minimum wage with opposition from the Conservative Party.”

“I look along that front bench opposite and I see a Cabinet bickering and backbiting while the economy gets weaker and people are pushed further in to debt.”

After shouts of “Look behind you” were heard and the heckling continued, Speaker John Bercow intervened and singled out Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) for “gesticulating in a distinctly eccentric manner”.

Mr Bercow added: “Shakespeare’s county deserves better.”

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