Cameron: I agree with Ed Miliband

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron agreed with Ed Miliband's assessment of business ethics even though he questioned his prescriptions, the prime minister has admitted.

During an interview with the Today programme, the prime minister was keen to highlight his own work encouraging moral behaviour from businesses.

"I have been talking about this for five or six years," he said.

"I'm all for talking about good business ethics."

Mr Cameron then cited his campaign against the sale of chocolate oranges at the counter in newsagents as an example of his willingness to take on bad business practices.

But the prime minister was careful to distance himself from Mr Miliband's solution to the problem, which involved a distinction between 'producer' and 'predator' companies, with differential tax incentives to change behaviour.

"Where I think Ed goes off the rails is the idea – and George [Osborne] put it very well in his speech yesterday – that the chancellor of the exchequer can sit there and say 'there's one tax rate for this company and another tax rate of that company."

"I want to see responsible behaviour and I want to see us regulate the banks properly. But you can't determine, I think, the pay structure in every single organisation. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do," he said.

Mr Miliband hit out at Mr Cameron in a blog post this afternoon.

"I thought his 'chocolate orange moment' was absurd five years ago and I have to say it was exposed on the radio this morning," he said.

"Yes he talked about it five years ago and yes, they are still being sold at the tills of WH Smith. That’s because the whole thing was a piece of absurd political positioning.

"It was absurd not just simply because it was relatively trivial but because David Cameron failed to understand that politely asking commercial organisations to behave in the right and responsible way is not enough."

Conservatives were jubilant at the critical reception which greeted Mr Miliband's speech last week but there was recognition of the fact that the Labour leader had tacitly submitted to the Conservative position on welfare reform.

Many political insiders also respected Mr Miliband's decision to reintroduce a moral dimension to economics, a move which is thought to be popular with the public even if the Labour leader failed to find the terminology to communicate it.