The Labour leader used a speech in London to call for greater responsibility from big businesses and bankers, as well as wider society.
His attack comes despite an attempt to cast off his “Red Ed” tag, and will raise eyebrows in the City over the Labour party’s commitment to British business and London’s finance industry at the heart of the country’s economy.
Miliband, who was attempting to reassert his authority following a week of damaging headlines about his relationship with his brother David, hit out at “the banks acting as if there was no tomorrow” and business executives who paid themselves “inflated” salaries.
“Every time a chief executive gives himself a massive pay rise – more than he deserves or his company can bear – it undermines trust at every level of society. We cannot and we must not be relaxed about that,” he said.
Miliband called for companies to publish the ratio between the pay of their highest earners and the average employee, stopping short of calling for an all-out curb on pay.
“It isn’t for government to set maximum ratios but we do need change to encourage the responsibility we need,” he said.
Miliband also called for workers to be able to sit on the remuneration committees of big companies.
The Labour leader stressed he would only “applaud” high pay if it was met with adequate evidence to do so.
“We must create a boardroom culture that rewards wealth creation, not failure.
“To those entrepreneurs and business people who generate wealth, create jobs and deserve their top salaries, I’m not just relaxed about you getting rich, I applaud you,” he said.