Cameron made these comments as Marks & Spencer chief executive Sir Stuart Rose slammed the Prime Minister for dismissing the business community’s concerns over tax rises.
Mr Brown had suggested business leaders who supported Conservative tax plans had been “deceived” by promises which were not credible.
But Mr Cameron said the Government was losing the argument and it was time Mr Brown stopped insulting those who were helping to lead the country out of recession.
As the row intensified Mr Cameron revealed another 13 businesses had backed Tory plans to scrap the majority of the NI increase funded by efficiency savings.
Speaking earlier, Mr Cameron offered some advice to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, telling him: “It really is worthwhile to stop insulting the businesses and the business leaders who are going to help lead this country out of recession. That seems to me to be a crazy thing to do.”
He added that the Government were “looking very rattled and very worried that they are losing the argument with business”.
Mr Brown had earlier accused the Tories of drawing up their tax plans on the “back of an envelope”, claiming business leaders had been deceived by promises which were not credible.
But Sir Stuart Rose, the executive chairman of Marks & Spencer, who has signed a letter criticising the rise in NI, accused the Prime Minister of insulting the intelligence of the country’s top executives.
Sir Stuart said: “I don’t think it’s helpful to dismiss 60 people saying we are dupes. If I had been the Prime Minister I might have said ‘I don’t agree with them, they are entitled to their point of view, let’s have a debate about it’. I would not just say that they have been misled. To mislead one person is possible, to mislead 60 is quite difficult.”
He said that it is “unfortunate” that a serious debate has been “dismissed collectively”.
“That is the line that the Government appears to be taking. Fine. They are entitled to their opinion and I am entitled to mine.”
“The serious point has not been taken in the spirit in which it was offered. As the people directly responsible for paying taxes in all sorts of forms, but particularly this form, we see [the proposed National Insurance increase] as a barrier on new jobs and that is what we wanted to highlight,” he said.
Sir Stuart said that the proposed increase, which is due to come into force next April, would cost M&S £10m a year.
He added: “The other point that was missed in the letter is that there is an opportunity – just like businesses have had to – for the Government to cut waste. If M&S had not taken out £300m of costs over the last two years we would not be in the position we are in today. I believe there is an opportunity to look at the total government pot of money and make some savings.”
What do you think? Will a rise in NI make you think about increasing your number of staff and affect your business?