Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond yesterday pledged to show restraint over bankers' pay, but told MPs big bonuses were here to stay if the sector was to succeed.
The multi-millionaire banker, who took on the top job at Barclays on January 1, said the time for "remorse and apology" needed to be over to allow banks to support Britain's recovery.
In a hostile grilling by the cross-party Treasury Select Committee, Mr Diamond committed to being responsible in setting bonuses and would not pay more than was necessary.
However, he refused to be drawn on the bank's plans for this year's bonus round or his own windfall as he said the pot had not yet been set.
Mr Diamond is expected to be offered around £8m for 2010 performance, having waived his bonus for the last two years.
John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, asked if he would forgo his bonus again this year.
Mr Diamond batted away the question, saying: "I've not been awarded a bonus yet. I'll make that decision with my family, as I did last year."
The bank's new boss was being quizzed by the Commons committee during its hearing into competition and choice in British banking.
Britain's banks are in the process of totting up their bonus pots before full-year results are published, with bank pay also in the spotlight amid speculation the Government has caved into the City on the issue of bonuses.
Mr Diamond surprised MPs when he said that the Prime Minister and Chancellor had not asked him face-to-face to limit his bonus.
The 59-year-old - once described as the "unacceptable face of banking" by Lord Mandelson - said he had also not been pressed by the former government when deciding to forgo his handout in 2009 and 2010.
However, he said the debate needed to move on.
"Frankly, the biggest issue is how do we put some of the blame game behind us?"
It is thought this year's bonus will be reined in to reflect his new role, but he is still entitled to a potential package worth £11.4m, including a basic salary of £1.35m.