Narrow pay gap, Labour's Ed Miliband urges

image captionEd Miliband said he was not "dumping on" Labour's record

The government must do more to reduce the pay gap between rich and poor, Labour leadership contender Ed Miliband has said.

He called for the coalition's public sector High Pay Commission to widen its scope to look at the private sector, saying wage differences were "high".

Mr Miliband also said he wanted the 50p top rate of income tax to be kept in place permanently.

He is one of five candidates to become the next Labour leader.

In a speech outlining his values, Mr Miliband said it was "time to turn the page from Blair and Brown", adding that the party had seemed "too technocratic and managerial" in recent years and had often "stifled dissent".

Declaring himself the "best candidate who can turn the page and start a new chapter", he said admitting mistakes made in office was "not dumping on [Labour's] record".

'Shied away'

Mr Miliband called for more debate on the highest wage levels in the business world.

He said: "When a nurse earns less in a year than a banker earns in a week and it's the banker that caused the credit crunch, and the gap grows wider every year, it is unjust, it is bad for society, it is bad for our economy and we should say so.

"And this leads us to conclusions we have shied away from. We need to talk about the top of society.

"The differentials of 80, 100 or more between those at the top of a company and those at the bottom are just too high and we should say it.

"Some people will say that the market justifies this. Personally, I don't believe it because many of these rewards come from cosy remuneration committees where the chips are stacked on one side.

"But even if the market did justify it, let me be honest: our society depends on people showing responsibilities which go beyond the market or the law. There shouldn't be a free pass on responsibility just because you are a banker or a CEO."

Mr Miliband urged the coalition government to look at private sector pay, arguing: "If they are serious when they claim to be concerned about the pay gap, then they should do it."

He is facing former cabinet ministers Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and David Miliband, as well as backbench MP Diane Abbott, in the three-month contest for the Labour leadership.

Party members, trade union members, MPs and MEPs will be balloted and the result announced on 25 September.

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