Vince Cable called on business leaders to explain the NI cut
The actions of business leaders who criticised the planned rise in National Insurance are "utterly nauseating", Liberal Democrat Vince Cable has said.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Cable, the party's Treasury spokesman, said they were "used" by the Tories, who want to cut National Insurance.
He also criticised Gordon Brown, saying he was in a very weak position, having "kowtowed to the City" for years.
Business leaders have rejected criticism that they have been misled.
Labour wants to raise NI contributions by 1% for people on more than £20,000 from April 2011 to protect spending on health, schools and policing.
The Tories say that would "kill the recovery" and is a "tax on jobs". Their plans to block the rise are backed by more than 100 business leaders, including the head of M&S Sir Stuart Rose.
In the Guardian interview, Mr Cable said: "I just find it utterly nauseating, all these chairmen and chief executives of FTSE companies being paid 100 times the pay of their average employees lecturing us on how we should run the country. I find it barefaced cheek."
He called on them to explain how the cut in National Insurance would be paid for.
"If they are going to wade into this debate, they do have an obligation to explain how this National Insurance cut is going to be paid for and that is where they are failing and they are being used," he said.
On Friday, a Conservative adviser outlined how public spending could be cut by £12bn to fund their pledge on National Insurance.
He said cuts to IT projects, office costs, contracts and recruitment were "do-able".
Sir Stuart Rose previously accused Mr Brown of insulting the intelligence of the business community by saying they had been "deceived".
Mr Cable said Mr Brown was not in a position to "hit back" against them.
"Brown, having kowtowed to the City for the best part of a decade, and having tried to co-opt captains of industry into the big tent, is in a very weak position," he said.