Backlash as Corbyn offers £10 an hour wage bribe to teens

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of trying to ‘bribe’ teenagers to support Labour by pledging to extend its plans for a £10-an-hour minimum wage to 16-year-old school leavers.

Tory MPs described the move as a blatant attempt to entrench the party’s dominance among young voters – at the expense of the taxpayer. Tory MP Nigel Adams hit out: ‘Why not throw in a free iPad and free Spotify subscription?’

Mr Corbyn pledged to abolish the ‘youth rate’, which currently pays the under-18s a minimum wage of £4.35 per hour, compared with the adult rate of £8.21, by 2020.

Under a Labour government, all workers aged 16 and older would receive a ‘baseline’ rate of £10, Mr Corbyn said.

Labour has previously pledged to legislate to reduce the voting age to 16 if it wins power – adding a further 1.35 million voters to the electorate. More than two-thirds of under-24s who turn out to vote are Corbyn-backers; electoral experts calculate that moving the voting age to 16 would cost the Tories at least 30 seats at subsequent elections.

Critics immediately raised questions about how the plan could be applied without causing a spike in youth unemployment as firms recoil from the cost of hiring young staff – unless taxpayers are forced to fund it directly through working tax credits.

Mr Corbyn said that the £10-an-hour rate will ‘be nothing less than life-changing’ for young workers, who would earn £2,500 more each year. He told a gathering of young Labour activists: ‘Equal pay for equal work is hardly a controversial idea, so why are we discriminating against young people?

‘You don’t get a discount at the shops for being under 18. But if the person serving you on the other side of the counter is young, they could be on half the wage of their colleagues. It’s time to end this discrimination. Young people’s work should be properly valued, not exploited by employers to cut their wage bill’.

Labour’s Peter Dowd, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘We’ve got to have a system that reflects the needs of small businesses, but also has to reflect the needs of the people they employ, whether they are 16 or 60.’ But economists immediately raised the alarm bells, with the respected Institute For Fiscal Studies’ director Paul Johnson saying that he was concerned the ‘really dramatic’ plan could cost jobs.

‘Clearly, the risk, given the choice between doubling the wages you’re currently paying 16 and 17-year-olds or not employing them at all, is you will have fewer 16 and 17-year-olds in work,’ he told the BBC.

And the free-market Institute Of Economic Affairs think-tank said that Labour’s announcement had ‘plucked pay increases out of the air’.

Its spokesman, Professor Len Shackleton, added: ‘This would mean doubling the pay of young people who understandably have fewer skills and less experience than older colleagues.

‘Such a rate hike could raise youth unemployment to levels comparable with those in continental Europe… the consequences for employment are likely to be grim.’ And the Confederation of British Industry added: ‘Youth rates play an important role in helping to reduce youth unemployment and should be retained.’

The Federation Of Small Businesses also slammed the proposal saying: ‘It doesn’t sound like it’s been thought through at all.’

Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Chris Philp said: ‘The last Labour government saw the number of young people without a job rise to almost one million and Jeremy Corbyn’s reckless approach to the economy would see the next generation saddled with higher levels of debt and higher taxes.

‘You can’t trust Labour on the economy or on their promises to young people.’

John Bercow will fly to the US next week to boost his global profile at taxpayers’ expense, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The controversial House of Commons Speaker, who has abandoned his plan to step down this summer, will visit US capital Washington DC to deliver a speech about his role in Brexit.

Mr Bercow has enraged the Government and former Conservative colleagues who accuse him of ripping up ancient Commons rules in a bid to stop Britain leaving the EU. But his stewarding of tense Brexit showdowns has also earned him an international acclaim after videos of him shouting his trademark ‘order, order’ at rowdy MPs delighted foreign media. Mr Bercow’s team last night said the ‘interest in the Brexit debates is global’ and insisted he would not be demanding a fee for his speech but admitted the costs of flights and hotels will come from the public purse.

They confirmed he will address think-tank the Brookings Institution ‘about the parliamentary process and his role as Speaker’ in a formal capacity and will also address America Evolution, a group that celebrates US democracy, on his trip.

But critics claim the trip is designed to line up lucrative speaking engagements when he finally steps down as Speaker after ten years in the job. It is understood that the trip had originally been planned for the Easter recess but the continued Brexit deadlock in the Commons meant it had to be delayed. It will now take place during the Whitsun break from May 23 to June 4.

Mr Bercow said he would step down after Britain’s planned exit day on March 29 but when that was delayed, his departure date was also pushed back. As The MoS revealed, he was persuaded to stay in the job by Remain-backing MPs to help thwart Brexit.

In November, he declared a £6,000 all-expenses paid trip to Hong Kong as part of his unpaid second job as Chancellor of the University of Essex. But insiders claim that Mr Bercow is particularly keen for publicity in the US, with one eye on his future career. A speaking agent said: ‘He will have a good couple of months on the speaking circuit on the back of his anti-Trump and Brexit stuff but he will have to move quickly as your shelf life is very short in that world.’

The industry expert added that Mr Bercow would probably be snapped up by the Harry Walker Agency, whose clients include Barack Obama, or the Washington Speaker’s Agency, which has signed up former PM Tony Blair.

Last night Tory MP James Duddridge urged the Speaker to resign. He said: ‘The umpire cannot be a player, so if he wants to pontificate on Brexit he needs stand down.’ And fellow Conservative David Morris added: ‘After perverting the course of Brexit, now John Bercow looks to be gearing up to feather his nest on the back of it.’

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