Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced fierce criticism from business leaders after indicating that he would be prepared to remove many of the curbs placed on trade unions in the 1980s.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr show last weekend, Mr Corbyn said he was in favour of repealing the ban on sympathy strikes – introduced by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The legislation prohibits workers from going out on a picket line to support colleagues in other sectors.

He would also be in favour of ending the ban on flying pickets, although he did not intend to revisit laws governing so-called “closed shops”.

Political opponents of Mr Corbyn had warned that unpicking the legislation could open the door to the sort of industrial action which had a crippling effect on Britain’s economy in decades gone by.

Treasury Minister David Gauke warned that such a strategy ran the risk of returning the UK to the 1970s – a period of industrial strife which culminated with the Winter of Discontent.

The Labour leader’s remarks are a dramatic departure from those made during the New Labour era, when both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown explicitly ruled out reversing the strike reforms.

Defending the proposals on the BBC current affairs programme, Mr Corbyn argued that sympathy strikes were legal in most other countries and that Britain’s laws were far stricter than those of our European neighbours.

“Nobody willingly goes on strike,” he said. “They go on strike as an ultimate weapon. Anyone who goes on strikes is making a sacrifice, they don’t get paid

“So let’s look at the causes of people being upset rather than the symptoms.”