David Cameron has vowed to take on growing "snobbish attitudes" towards money-makers today as he argues business is the best way to "smash poverty".
The prime minister claimed there is an increasingly "dangerous rhetoric" that suggests wealth creation is "anti-social" and has no "moral worth".
That must be fought "with all we've got", Cameron will urged as he joined the Prince of Wales at a Business in the Community (BITC) conference.
"Asking business to do more isn't about making do and mending, it's about making things better. And while we're arguing this, we've got to take on certain snobbish attitudes," he said.
"The snobbery that says business has no inherent moral worth like the state does, that it isn't really to be trusted, that it should stay out of social concerns and stick to making the money that pays the taxes."
Cameron's speech appears to mark a change in tone, having recently pledged to attack "crony capitalism" and stop the "merry-go-round" in the City that allowed under-performing executives to award each other large bonuses.
Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Cameron was "totally confused and inconsistent" on the issue.
"Last month he gave a 'moral capitalism' speech saying he would stand up to vested interests for the sake of our economy, our businesses and society, but this month he has abandoned that agenda instead seeking to smear those who argue for a more responsible capitalism by claiming they are anti wealth creation and guilty of snobbery," he said.
The defence comes after continued criticism of big business from across the political spectrum. Last month Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson joined critics of state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland claiming it was "absolutely bewildering" its chief executive Stephen Hester was in line for a bonus of nearly £1m.
But today he said that business is "the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known".
He added: "It can help us to smash poverty, raise horizons, drive the innovations, products, services that make our lives better, longer and happier."
The prime minister's speech comes as senior Tory MP David Davis attacked him for being “far too close” to big business".
Davis, who stood against Cameron for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2005, said: "Britain’s crony capitalism will inflict huge damage to our interests, economy, industry and society."
While those on the right of the party, including former defence secretary Liam Fox, have called for greater tax breaks for businesses in this year's Budget.Suggest a correction