Big corporations have “co-opted” diversity and inclusion to “insulate themselves” from resentment at their wealth, Michael Gove has said.

In a speech on Tuesday, the long-serving Cabinet minister described “the accumulation of wealth for its own sake” as “immoral” and attacked asset managers’ focus on getting returns on investments as working to undermine capitalism.

Mr Gove said: “We have seen a concentration of wealth, a tendency towards monopoly and oligopoly that has meant that the gains of economic growth have increasingly been concentrated in the hands of a few.”

He made the comments at a conference organised by the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (Arc), which brought together right-wing figures in Greenwich, south-east London, to discuss the direction of conservatism.

Along with “the behaviour of asset managers”, the Communities Secretary said quantitative easing has increased the wealth of those who already owned assets while leaving those without assets facing rising costs of living.

He added that large corporations have been able to use “their size, their lobbying ability, their closeness and proximity to power” to “rig markets in their favour”.

“Those who have been privileged, those who already have significant assets, those who are smart and connected, have been able to enrich themselves at a rate that has only exacerbated inequality and therefore led to resentment,” he said.

He added that these “privileged” groups have allied themselves with “the resentment industry”, which he described as “the biggest growth industry in the world”.

He said: “You will find that there are major figures, major institutions within the corporate world who are well aware that the decisions that they’ve taken have enriched them, that carried interest, that the way in which asset managers operate have meant that they have done incredibly well out of the division of spoils in our country.

“And they are also conscious that they need to insulate themselves from the envy, resentment and, indeed, sense of injustice that is out there.

“So what they’ve done is they’ve co-opted individuals from the resentment industry to be their advisers on ESG (environmental, social and governance), EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) or whatever other acronymic shield they wish to put up.”

Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference
Michael Gove made his comments at a conference organised by the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Arc was founded earlier this year and is backed by Dubai-based investment company Legatum Ventures and British investor Sir Paul Marshall, who are both investors in GB News.

Controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and Conservative peer Baroness Stroud are among its leading figures.

Discussions at the conference on Tuesday focused on free markets, social relations and the environment.

The audience also heard comments from scientist Steve Koonin, who said there is no climate crisis and claimed that refusing funding for fossil fuel projects in the developed world is “immoral”.