John McDonnell has said Labour will “in effect” cancel the Tory freeze on benefits as he engaged in a televised spat with a Tory cabinet minister.
He told the BBC that Labour reforms would make the freeze “irrelevant” but stopped short of pledging a formal abolition.
Labour has committed to reversing a series of iconic Tory social security measures, such as the introduction of the bedroom tax, which remains closely associated with George Osborne.
Today McDonnell said Labour would make reforms across the welfare system as he slammed the “fatuous economic talk” of Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, on the Andrew Marr Show.
Labour’s social security proposals “would ensure that in effect we would be addressing this issue of how we reverse the benefit freeze itself”, McDonnell said.
“I want to do it as part of an overall reform package and not just pick off one by one.
“We’re putting £30bn in over the lifetime of a Parliament into welfare, we’re reforming the whole process… and the implication of that will be… the impact of these proposals will make the freeze irrelevant because we’ll reform the whole process.”
As Green accused McDonnell of planning to “tax the hell out of the economy”, the shadow chancellor defended Labour’s proposals for a series of nationalisation after the manifesto included a surprise measure to bring the water industry into public ownership.
McDonnell also confronted Green over his past directorship on a water company and accused him of distributing excess rewards to shareholders.
As Marr struggled to get a word in between the warring par, Green countered by saying: “You don’t understand capitalism”.