Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn named and shamed energy giant E.ON as one of the firms he said is guilty of making late payments to its suppliers – despite the fact the energy giant sponsored an event at the party conference in 2016.
E.ON’s Director of Strategy and Regulation was inside the conference room alongside Labour MPs at the event in Liverpool, having paid several thousand pounds to be there.
That did not stop Mr Corbyn from criticising the corporation in a speech where he vowed to crack down on firms which he says profit from withholding more than £26 billion from suppliers through late payment and drive around 50,000 small firms out of business annually.
Other firms he named and shamed included Capita, BT Group, Vodafone, National Grid and Marks & Spencer.
“Cash is king for any business, and big companies are managing their cash by borrowing – interest free – from their suppliers,” Mr Corbyn said at a Federation for Small Businesses event.
“Some of the biggest names in business are holding cash piles that don’t actually belong to them.
“It’s a national scandal. And it’s stopping businesses from growing and causing thousands to go bust every year. It kills jobs and holds back economic growth.”
Labour said Mr Corbyn’s attack on the corporations was based on data from current Experian credit reports, which identified payment beyond terms, normally 30-60 days, by big companies.
In the figures quoted by Labour, German energy giant E.On was said to have gone 78 days over terms, M&S went 72 days beyond terms, Capita 82 days and the National Grid as long as 119 days. Others mentioned by Corbyn were 89 days for BT and 84 days for Vodafone.
Credit agency Experian said the data should be treated with caution, however, because the figures only take into account invoices which are settled late and do not take into account those paid on time, meaning they do not represent an aggregate.
Several of the companies named by Mr Corbyn, including M&S, Capita and BT, disputed the figures in the speech.
An M&S spokesperson said: “We don’t recognise these numbers at all. Over 99% of our supplier invoices are paid on time and we are signatories to the prompt payment code.”
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
This is not the first time E.ON has been criticised by a Labour leader.
Ed Milliband took the “big six” energy firms, who include E.ON, to task for their failure to pass on reductions in the cost of fuel to customers, saying they were “part of the problem, not the solution.”
But this did not prevent E.ON from reportedly being allowed to build “a kind of wendy house” at the Labour Conference in 2014 at a cost of several thousand pounds, where the company is said to have defended its pricing strategy, according to Vice magazine.
The final decision on exhibitors at the party’s conference is taken by the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC), which Mr Corbyn chairs.
McDonald’s was blocked from exhibiting at the Liverpool conference, a move criticised as “snobbish” by some commentators.
The decision to turn down McDonald’s was reportedly motivated by concerns over public health and the connection between fast food and the UK’s obesity epidemic.