JEREMY CORBYN has set out plans to raise taxes on business to pay for investment in transport and education if Labour wins the next general election.
The Labour leader told his party’s conference in Liverpool he was offering the private sector “a new deal for rebuilding Britain”.
Mr Corbyn earned prolonged applause for promises including renationalising the railway and giving councils more freedom to borrow to build homes.
But his speech was criticised for giving little mention to the course Britain should follow as it prepares to leave the European Union.
His refusal to consider setting targets on immigration could also set him on a collision course with MPs concerned about Labour losing votes to Ukip in the North.
In his speech, Mr Corbyn promised “good businesses” he would give them a fair playing field by making sure other firms paid their tax bills.
But his plan to raise taxes on firms stands in stark contrast to the so-called “prawn cocktail offensive” launched by Labour under Tony Blair to try and win over the private sector before the 1997 election.
Mr Corbyn said: “Under Labour we will provide the investment to rebuild Britain’s infrastructure.
“We will fund that investment because it will lead to a more productive economy providing the basis on which our economy and our businesses can thrive, helping to provide over a million good jobs and opportunities for businesses.
“But investment in capital must include investment in human capital, the skilled workers needed to make our economy a success.
“So this is the deal Labour will offer to business.
“To help pay for a National Education Service, we will ask you pay a little more in tax.”
A string of senior figures have called for Labour to back changes to freedom of movemment as part of the Brexit process but Mr Corbyn made clear he will not impose targets on the number of people coming to the UK.
Instead, he promised a Labour government would focus on helping communities that experience significant migration.
He said: “A Labour government will not offer false promises on immigration as the Tories have done.
“We will not sow division by fanning the flames of fear. We will tackle the real issues of immigration instead whatever the eventual outcome of the Brexit negotiations and make the changes that are needed.
“We will act decisively to end the undercutting of workers’ pay and conditions through the exploitation of migrant labour and agency working which would reduce the number of migrant workers in the process.
“And we will ease the pressure on hard pressed public services - services that are struggling to absorb Tory austerity cuts, in communities absorbing new populations.”
Despite dire polling suggesting Labour is 10 percentage points behind the Conservatives who are on track for a 71 seat majority, Mr Corbyn insisted the party could win the next election.
He said: “It’s true there’s an electoral mountain to climb.
“But if we focus everything on the needs and aspirations of middle and lower income voters, of ordinary families, if we demonstrate we’ve got a viable alternative to the government’s failed economic policies. I’m convinced we can build the electoral support that can beat the Tories.”
Mr Corbyn admitted the contest for the Labour leadership, which saw him comprehensively re-elected at the start of the conference, had been “fraught”.
But he appealed to his critics to accept the result and end the “trench warfare” which has affliced the party over the last 12 months.
“Anything else is a luxury that the millions of people who depend on Labour cannot afford,” he said.
Mr Corbyn said the party needed to be prepared for a snap election next year and would be “ready for the challenge”.
Dr Adam Marshall, acting director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While businesses agree that investment in infrastructure and skills is crucial to the UK’s future success, many will be concerned that Jeremy Corbyn is already reaching for the tax lever by asking businesses to pay for his education plans.
“A competitive business environment requires effective and efficient public spending, reasonable levels of taxation and regulation, as well as great infrastructure and a trained workforce.”
The Yorkshire Building Society welcomed Mr Corbyn’s efforts to tackle the shortage of housing which is fuelling prices.