Rich and successful people were needed to create a successful economy and jobs, he said.
His spirited defence of the rewards of industry "fat cats" was confined, however, to those who earned them through performance. The Chancellor told BBC radio 4's The World at One: "Certainly I criticise some of the share options schemes, I criticise some of the pay which isn't based on performance." But he said: "One day this country will decide that good businessmen are entitled to be paid at least as much as good footballers [up to £10,000 a week for a top premiership player].
"Personally I'm all in favour of good footballers being paid quite a lot, but a guy who runs his business quite successfully and is as good at running a business as a footballer is at scor- ing goals, deserves to be paid.
"What I object to is these people in less competitive industries who've got themselves rather advantageous schemes which we've made quite clear we will act upon."
John Major has signalled that the Government would legislate if that is the recommendation of the CBI committee on top people's pay headed by the Marks & Spencer chief Sir Richard Greenbury.
The Chancellor said Labour was guilty of the politics of envy and would simply "throw the baby out with the bathwater".
He went on: "The starting point has got to be: what is a fair reward, what actually rewards good performance because good performance in business means prosperity and it means jobs for thousands of people ...
"You can't have a successful economy, a rich economy, without having some rich and successful people who've helped us create all that."
The Chancellor said Labour had sought "a few easy rounds of applause" by claiming some businessmen were paid too much.
Iain McCartney, shadow Employment Minister, said the privatised utilities had cut 125,910 jobs and another 82,380 were in the pipeline. "The bosses of privatised utilities have been using mass redundancies to create a short-term boost for their balance sheet and a lottery jackpot boost for their bonuses."
t Michael Bett CBE, whose appointment as the new First Civil Service Commissioner was announced by Downing Street yesterday, will get an annual salary of £57,000 for a three-day week when he takes up the post on 3 April. The salary reflects the Civil Service permanent secretary grade, although Mr Bett, 60, is also a non-executive director of BT and chairman of Cellnet.
Following January's White Paper Taking Forward Continuity and Change, he and the other commissioners will be responsible for approving all appointments from outside the service to senior posts within.