Vince Cable has been forced to issue an embarrassing clarification after appearing to criticise pop group One Direction for earning too much money.
Unveiling a 12p rise in the minimum wage, the business secretary was asked if he agreed it was "mad" that the band had made £5 million each over the past year.
However, aides stressed that the Liberal Democrat had "misheard" the question at the central London event, and was referring to the pay of chief executives.
In an interview with Sky News he said: "I don't want to attack One Direction; this is one particular group who are apparently very popular and very successful so I have nothing against them.
"But there is a general issue of chief execs in particular who are paid well beyond what can be justified in terms of the performance of their companies and that's something the government is now trying to address."
Director General of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker first brought up the band members' pay, calling them 'New Direction' before Cable slammed their pay directly. The Sunday Times Young Music rich list revealed the the five members of One Direction racked up a £5m fortune each in the last year, and combined earnings of £25m.
However some said talk of One Direction merely diverted from the real issue of minimum wage and how it impacted those on low pay.
The rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will rise by 5p to £5.03, and by 4p to £3.72 for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Ministers said they had rejected a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission that the rate for apprentices should be frozen, announcing a 3p an increase to £2.68 an hour.
One Direction - made up of singers Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne - made a total of £25 million last year, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.