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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Lorna Gledhill
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (c) scottgun"]The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams[/caption] Yesterday, in an article published in the Financial Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury voiced his support for a Tobin Tax (Robin Hood Tax) alongside re-positioning the Church of England as an ally, not enemy, of the Occupy London protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, he declared that “it is time we tried to be more specific” in our dissatisfaction. Focused on taking forward the moral agenda raised by the OLSX protesters, Rowan Williams outlined the Church’s approach to financial justice. He detailed the tripartite structure of the Vatican Council’s document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: separating routine banking from speculative transactions; recapitalisation of banks with public money; and the introduction of the Tobin Tax on share, bond and currency transactions and their derivatives. The Robin Hood Tax would place a minute rate of tax, around 0.05%, on certain financial transactions in order to raise funds that can be invested in the ‘real’ economy. The returns are estimated at around £20 billion from the UK alone.  Support has been growing for the Tobin Tax, with campaigning groups such as 38 Degrees receiving 15,282 signatures on a petition calling for David Cameron to back the tax. However, the current government seems to be reluctant to heed growing public support for a more equal financial taxing system. Despite claiming that he was firmly in favour of a Tobin Tax if the global markets followed suit, George Osborne’s correspondence with City bankers seems to suggest a different policy. In a private letter sent to bank chiefs on Monday, Osborne not only assured bankers that he was sure that “international consensus does not exist” but also that “there would need to be further discussions about whether any FTT (Financial Transaction Tax) model offers an deficient mechanism to raise revenue.” Today’s Prime Ministers Questions even saw David Cameron state that Rowan Williams speaks for most of the country, whilst carefully dodging calls from Caroline Lucas to support calls for the Tobin Tax at the G20 meetings. As questions of tax dodging, bankers’ bonuses and financial irresponsibility permeate the debate, Cameron cannot afford to be so coy. Whilst government seems to be keeping the City sweet, the huge U-turn taken by St Paul’s Chapter and church authorities has managed to redirect the discussion back to its fundamental questions. There are more high profile members of the church joining the debate, with Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, stating that the question lies in “reconnecting the financial with the ethical” and has recently led his colleagues from St Paul’s down to OLSX to meet campaigners and restart dialogue with the camp. The Cathedral’s change of heart has put the Corporation of London in a difficult situation. Without the support of St Paul’s, the proposed eviction of the campaigners will be difficult, both in terms of logistics and reputation. Claiming that they have only “pressed the pause button” on the evictions, the Corporation of London are giving themselves “time for reflection” before continuing their legal action. OLSX are expecting to receive a statement from the Corporation sometime today. Rowan Williams, unlike the Corporation of London and the government, has managed to reiterate the substantive questions that prompted the protest. He concluded his article in the FT with the following statement:

“The Church of England and the Church Universal have a proper interest in the ethics of the financial world and in the question of whether our financial practices serve those who need to be served – or have simply become idols that themselves demand uncritical service.”
Yes, it is time we tried to be more specific, but we must also begin to remove the stranglehold of big business over government. The situation at St Paul’s is not about the flouting highway laws, health and safety regulations, or even disrupting the tourist trade; despite what the government and much of the financial sector would like us to believe. When people begin question the social and economic inequality that is bred within the financial system, it threatens to topple the false idols that have ruled the City and government policy for the past 40 years. This is what the government fears, and what we must continue to challenge.  

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“It is time we tried to be more specific”: Rowan Williams and financial justice

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (c) scottgun

Yesterday, in an article published in the Financial Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury voiced his support for a Tobin Tax (Robin Hood Tax) alongside re-positioning the Church of England as an ally, not enemy, of the Occupy London protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, he declared that “it is time we tried to be more specific” in our dissatisfaction.

Focused on taking forward the moral agenda raised by the OLSX protesters, Rowan Williams outlined the Church’s approach to financial justice. He detailed the tripartite structure of the Vatican Council’s document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: separating routine banking from speculative transactions; recapitalisation of banks with public money; and the introduction of the Tobin Tax on share, bond and currency transactions and their derivatives.

The Robin Hood Tax would place a minute rate of tax, around 0.05%, on certain financial transactions in order to raise funds that can be invested in the ‘real’ economy. The returns are estimated at around £20 billion from the UK alone.  Support has been growing for the Tobin Tax, with campaigning groups such as 38 Degrees receiving 15,282 signatures on a petition calling for David Cameron to back the tax.

However, the current government seems to be reluctant to heed growing public support for a more equal financial taxing system. Despite claiming that he was firmly in favour of a Tobin Tax if the global markets followed suit, George Osborne’s correspondence with City bankers seems to suggest a different policy. In a private letter sent to bank chiefs on Monday, Osborne not only assured bankers that he was sure that “international consensus does not exist” but also that “there would need to be further discussions about whether any FTT (Financial Transaction Tax) model offers an deficient mechanism to raise revenue.”

Today’s Prime Ministers Questions even saw David Cameron state that Rowan Williams speaks for most of the country, whilst carefully dodging calls from Caroline Lucas to support calls for the Tobin Tax at the G20 meetings. As questions of tax dodging, bankers’ bonuses and financial irresponsibility permeate the debate, Cameron cannot afford to be so coy.

Whilst government seems to be keeping the City sweet, the huge U-turn taken by St Paul’s Chapter and church authorities has managed to redirect the discussion back to its fundamental questions. There are more high profile members of the church joining the debate, with Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, stating that the question lies in “reconnecting the financial with the ethical” and has recently led his colleagues from St Paul’s down to OLSX to meet campaigners and restart dialogue with the camp.

The Cathedral’s change of heart has put the Corporation of London in a difficult situation. Without the support of St Paul’s, the proposed eviction of the campaigners will be difficult, both in terms of logistics and reputation. Claiming that they have only “pressed the pause button” on the evictions, the Corporation of London are giving themselves “time for reflection” before continuing their legal action. OLSX are expecting to receive a statement from the Corporation sometime today.

Rowan Williams, unlike the Corporation of London and the government, has managed to reiterate the substantive questions that prompted the protest. He concluded his article in the FT with the following statement:

“The Church of England and the Church Universal have a proper interest in the ethics of the financial world and in the question of whether our financial practices serve those who need to be served – or have simply become idols that themselves demand uncritical service.”

Yes, it is time we tried to be more specific, but we must also begin to remove the stranglehold of big business over government. The situation at St Paul’s is not about the flouting highway laws, health and safety regulations, or even disrupting the tourist trade; despite what the government and much of the financial sector would like us to believe. When people begin question the social and economic inequality that is bred within the financial system, it threatens to topple the false idols that have ruled the City and government policy for the past 40 years. This is what the government fears, and what we must continue to challenge.

 

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R Hood says:

One wonders what the Church of England's annual revenue is and precisely how much of it they pay in tax. Perhaps they should opt out of their charitable status in order to help the nation's finances if they are so concerned?

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