16/05/2017 09:33 BST | Updated 16/05/2017 15:21 BST

John McDonnell Denies BBC Presenter's Suggestion He Was 'Passed A Bit Of Paper' On Deficit Question

But his answer was out by at least £16bn, anyway.

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McDonnell said he had 'not at all' been passed a piece of paper 

Labour struck a difficult start to its manifesto launch today, as the party’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was accused of being handed a note during a grilling on the deficit, before proceeding to bungle the forecast figure.

McDonnell was quizzed three times over the net figure of government incomings and outgoings in an appearance on the BBC’s Today programme. 

At one point during the interview, presenter Nick Robinson asked him: “Did somebody pass you a bit of paper?”

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Robinson told McDonnell he was being 'too kind' about the final figure he gave

McDonnell denied the claim, but Robinson stood firm: “Just sounds like there was a bit of paper being handed across there.”

When the Shadow Chancellor did answer the question on Britain’s deficit, he put it at £68bn to £70bn.

Robinson had to remind him that was actually some £18bn off the figure forecast for the year ending March 2017.

Read the full exchange below:

After the interview, a Labour figure with McDonnell at the time of the interview categorically denied the claim.

A BBC producer also confirmed McDonnell had not been handed a note.

Elsewhere in the BBC interview, McDonnell was challenged over a pledge trailed ahead of the official manifesto launch to renationalise the water industry. 

He refused to say how much the policy would cost, saying only that the information would be commercially sensitive.

Labour is releasing the full version of its manifesto at 11am this morning, five days after a draft copy was leaked to two national newspapers.

The policies reportedly to be announced in today’s version include reintroducing the 50p rate of income tax and introducing a levy on businesses that pay excessive wages.

It is also being claimed Labour will guarantee 30 hours of free childcare for families.

Jeremy Corbyn will use Labour’s manifesto launch on Tuesday to tear into the “mean-spirited” Tories and demand Theresa May “comes out of hiding” to take part in a head-to-head television debate.

The Labour leader is set to use the official unveiling of his party’s vision for Government to throw down the gauntlet to May, who is refusing to take part in a one-on-one debate.

Corbyn will accuse the Tories of being for the “rich…tight-fisted and the mean-spirited”, as he sets out Labour’s “radical and responsible” manifesto.

The Tories have already dismissed Corbyn’s attack, and describing his economic plans as “nonsensical.”