2 Nov 2011

Archbishop backs ‘Tobin tax’ on banks

In a major statement backing the protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Dr Rowan Williams calls for moves to “effect credible change” in the financial system.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he backs a

The statement is yet another example of the Church of England changing its position on the encampment of protesters, which has highlighted deep divisions among senior clergy. The dean and canon of St Paul’s both resigned over the handling of the situation.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, which aims to draw attention to inequalities in the global financial system, won a stay of eviction when the Corporation of London and St Paul’s which own the land halted legal action.

Writing in the Financial Times, the archbishop said it was important for the protesters’ concerns to be heard. However he said their demands were quite “vague” and he tried to clarify those demands: “Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn’t easy to say what we should do differently.

“It is time we tried to be more specific.”

Dr Williams said the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration is an “expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment”.

He wrote: “There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of messages not getting through; of impatience with a return to ‘business as usual’ – represented by still soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices.”

More obligations on bailed out banks

He praised a document produced by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace last week, that supports a “Robin Hood” tax on share, bond and currency transactions.

The article also suggests separating the retail and trading arms of banks and placing more obligations on banks that were recapitalised with public money.

He added: “These ideas – ideas that have been advanced from other quarters, religious and secular, in recent years – do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent.

“If we want to take seriously the moral agenda of the protesters at St Paul’s, these are some of the ways in which we should be taking it forward.”