Boris Johnson has pledged to postpone further corporation tax cuts in a bid to divert £6 billion to the “priorities of the British people”.
The Prime Minister said such a change is the “fiscally responsible thing to do at the present time” and named the NHS as among the services expected to receive money as a result.
His announcement came at the annual CBI conference during a speech in which he also outlined a desire to push on with “uniting and levelling up” the country.
Mr Johnson said if the country’s potential is “enormous then so is the injustice”, pointing to regions of the country lagging behind London.
Speaking at the InterContinental Hotel in Greenwich, south-east London, the PM told business leaders: “I hope you won’t mind if I also announce today that we are postponing further cuts in corporation tax.
“And before you storm the stage and protest, before you storm the stage, let me remind you this saves us £6 billion that we can put into the priorities of the British people, including the NHS.”
He added: “I hope you will understand it is the sensible, it is the fiscally responsible thing to do at the present time.
“It doesn’t mean we’re in any way averse to reducing taxes on business, as I’m sure you’ll understand.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the PM had announced a “temporary pause in the Tories’ race to the bottom” on corporation tax.
He said: “This pale attempt to mask the Conservatives’ history of handing out tax giveaways to big business shows they are in chaos, but when the election is over we know they’ll soon revert to type.”
It came as Jeremy Corbyn vowed to put an end to the “tax tricks” that allow the “biggest corporations to avoid paying their way”.
The Labour leader dismissed as “nonsense” claims that he is anti-business, and instead said his government would bring “more investment” to businesses than they have “ever dreamt of”.
He told the CBI he was “not making any apologies” for pledging to bring some key services into public ownership, saying: “It’s not an attack on the foundations of a modern economy, it’s the very opposite. It’s the norm in many European countries.
“It’s taking the essential steps to build a genuinely mixed economy for the 21st century.”
He added: “So I understand your caution about some of our plans but your businesses, your workers, your consumers have been failed by rip-off energy bills and very poor rail and bus services in many parts of the country, and I think many of you know that because you know things can’t go on as they are.”
Jo Swinson will address the conference later on Monday and is set to declare that the Liberal Democrats are the “natural party of business”.
She will insist remaining in the EU gives the UK the best chance of success, as “any form of Brexit, whether it’s hard or soft, blue or red, will be bad for jobs, business and our public services”.