Keir Starmer today accused Boris Johnson of “rolling over” on bankers’ bonuses while nurses face pay cuts.
The Labour leader grilled the prime minister over reports he is considering relaxing restrictions on executive pay.
It comes after a report in the i Paper that said Downing Street had asked ministers to ease restrictions on City bosses’ pay in a bid to show overseas companies the “benefits of Brexit”.
Steve Barclay, the PM’s chief of staff, wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak with a plan for “deregulatory measures to reduce the overall burden on business” and attract more firms to the UK.
During a heated prime minister’s questions Starmer said: “His chief of staff says that removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses is, in his words, reflective of our new approach.
“Pay rises for City bankers, pay cuts for district nurses. That’s the new approach.
“I didn’t see that on any leaflets in Wakefield. But this hasn’t come from nowhere, because, according to the Financial Times, on June 7 last year, the prime minister was directly lobbied for the cap to be lifted.
“Rather than help working people, he’s rolled over on bankers’ bonuses, hasn’t he?”
Johnson replied saying the government was putting more money into the pockets of people up and down the country, adding: “The reason we can do that, is because we took the tough decisions necessary to come out of the pandemic faster than any other European country.
“That’s why we have unemployment at or near record lows. None of that would have been possible if we had listened to him.”
Government sources later stressed that the bonus cap remains in place and that they were not suggesting people were paid more or that the cap was removed. They said it was about how directors were paid, rather than removing the cap.
Bankers had been pushing for the cap - which sets a limit on bonuses of two times salary - to be scrapped as part of reforms designed to make London more attractive after Brexit.
Last year the FT reported that Johnson was lobbied by international bankers to remove the cap on bonuses.
According to the newspaper, the issue was raised by one international bank chief executive at a “virtual” financial services round table on June 7, attended by Sunak, Johnson and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey.
Starmer added: “Fifteen tax rises, high tax, low wages, low growth – that sums his government up. Working people paying more tax under this government and now they’re told to take a pay cut.
“He’s having meetings about increasing bankers’ bonuses, but he can’t find time for a single meeting to end the strikes crippling the country.”
Also during Wednesday’s exchange, Starmer told the PM the country was “screaming” for him to “get on with your job” and resolve the industrial dispute hitting train services.
But Johnson claimed Labour would take the UK “back to the 1970s” and said Starmer does not have the “gumption to speak out against the rail strikes”.