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Corbyn vows to tackle 'national scandal' of late payment culture

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to tackle the culture of late payments which is forcing more than 50,000 small firms out of business every year.

The Labour leader branded it "a national scandal" that big businesses were withholding more than £26 billion a year from small suppliers by paying their bills late.

It follows a Labour pledge to increase the minimum hourly wage to £10 by 2020 as Mr Corbyn attempts to woo voters ahead of local elections next month.

He also used a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to pledge to cut quarterly reporting for small firms and to create regional investment banks to make it easier for businesses to access finance.

Mr Corbyn said: "Cash is king for any business, and big companies are managing their cash by borrowing - interest free - from their suppliers.

"Some of the biggest names in business are holding cash piles that don't actually belong to them.

"It's a national scandal. And it's stopping businesses from growing and causing thousands to go bust every year. It kills jobs and holds back economic growth."

Labour would require companies bidding for public sector contracts to pay suppliers within 30 days and would consider bringing in fines for persistent offenders in the private sector, Mr Corbyn said.

He also suggested scrapping quarterly reporting for small businesses and a curb on any increase in corporation tax rates for small firms.

Mr Corbyn said: "In last month's Budget, the Chancellor bowed to pressure by delaying the implementation of quarterly reporting for small businesses by one year.

"That's not good enough. Labour is against small businesses having to report quarterly. It's a burden, a distraction, that will hold entrepreneurs back."

During the speech, Mr Corbyn appeared to make light of having to pay £100 fine for late filing of his tax returns last year, saying he had made a "donation" to the HMRC.

"No-one likes paying tax. We don't wake up in the morning thinking 'Oh, I must really pay some more tax today'. Nobody does that. But most of us know that tax is essential to a civilised society.

"So, most of us play by the rules. We do our tax returns; as you know, mine seem to attract the most attention. But that's OK, transparency is important and I want the HMRC to know I gave them another donation."

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said he was referring to last year's fine and not a new payment to HMRC.

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