Labour's four-day working week plan in chaos: Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth says it will NOT apply to NHS workers - only for John McDonnell to insist it will

  • John McDonnell said Labour wanted a four day week 'within the next decade'
  • Jon Ashworth today said four day week policy would not apply to NHS workers
  • He appeared to water down the policy and cast doubt on the 10 year timetable
  • But Mr McDonnell then insisted the reduced hours plan 'will apply to everybody' 

Labour's plan to introduce a four day working week was plunged into chaos today as shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said it would not apply to NHS staff - but John McDonnell insisted it would.

Mr Ashworth appeared to water down the policy early this morning as he said there would be a 'commission and a review in 10 years' time looking at' the viability of a shorter working week.

His remarks put him on a collision course with the shadow chancellor who announced the overhaul of working conditions at Labour's annual conference in September and said it would be achieved 'within the next decade'. 

Mr McDonnell said at the time: 'The next Labour government will put in place the changes needed to reduce average full-time hours to 32 a week within the next decade.'

But asked if the NHS would be included in Labour's plan, Mr Ashworth said: 'No. It is not happening. There is not a four day week coming in the NHS.' 

However, just hours later at a campaign event alongside Mr Ashworth, Mr McDonnell said the four day week policy 'will apply to everybody'. 

The extraordinary split at the top of the party came after the Tories claimed Labour's NHS spending plans would actually represent a budget cut for the health service. 

The Tories claimed introducing a four day week would cost the NHS £6.1 billion a year which would mean it would actually be worse off under Labour than the Conservatives. 

Jon Ashworth and John McDonnell appeared on stage this morning to set out Labour's NHS spending plans. Mr Ashworth said earlier that the four day week would not apply to the health service but Mr McDonnell then said that it would

Jon Ashworth and John McDonnell appeared on stage this morning to set out Labour's NHS spending plans. Mr Ashworth said earlier that the four day week would not apply to the health service but Mr McDonnell then said that it would

John McDonnell: Labour will hike tax on highest earners

John McDonnell today said a Labour government would hike taxes for the top five per cent of earners. 

The shadow chancellor said that 95 per cent of taxpayers would pay no additional tax under the party's plans. 

Mr McDonnell said: 'Let me just make this clear, and cut through the lies and the fake news from the Tories over last couple of weeks. 

'As I've said before, income tax rates, national insurance and VAT will not increase for 95 per cent of earners. 

'It's only the top five per cent we will ask to pay a little bit more.'

In its 2017 manifesto, Labour pledged not to raise income tax for those earning below £80,000 a year, and not to increase personal national insurance contributions or VAT.

This would be achieved by lowering the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 - from £150,000 - and by introducing a new top 50p rate on earnings above £123,000.

The additional rate was 50p for earnings above £150,000 from April 2010 until it was lowered to 45p in March 2012. 

Labour today announced a £26 billion funding 'Rescue Plan' for the NHS as it put the health service at the heart of its election campaign.  

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said the four day working week would 'cripple our economy and cost the NHS billions every year'. 

Labour has never said it would introduce a four day week from day one of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government with Mr McDonnell having clearly set out a 10 year window for the changes to be made. 

Mr Ashworth ridiculed Mr Hancock's claims as he then appeared to rip up Mr McDonnell's policy. 

He told the BBC: 'In 10 years' time when we have raised productivity in the economy and there will be a big review to see if with the changes in the work place, working around automation and things like that, mean that workers across the year can reduce their hours.

'The idea that there is going to be a four day week in the NHS on December 13 which Matt Hancock was suggesting in his press release last night was just nonsense, it was laughable, I couldn't believe it.'

Asked directly whether the NHS would in the future be part of Labour's four day working week plans, Mr Ashworth said: 'No. It is not happening. There is not a four day week coming in the NHS.' 

The interviewer then asked the shadow health secretary: 'So the NHS is not part, right now or not ever, part of a four day week plan?'

Mr Ashworth replied: 'No.'

The Labour frontbencher then appeared to cast doubt on Mr McDonnell's 10 year timetable. 

Asked why Labour is talking about a four day week if the NHS is not part of it, he said: 'Because John McDonnell wants to set up a commission to see if there are ways in which in 10 years' time people's working hours can be reduced.

'So there will be a commission and a review in 10 years' time looking at that.' 

The two men later shared a stage together in London as they set out Labour's plans for the health service. 

Mr McDonnell appeared to slap down Mr Ashworth as he said the four day week policy would apply to the NHS and would be phased in.   

Labour's four-day working week plan in chaos

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