Church leaders and Christian agencies say they are disappointed that neither of the two biggest political parties have included a commitment to the Robin Hood Tax in their general election manifestos, which have been launched this week.
The Liberal Democrats have however included "urgent proposals" for the transaction tax, which is a tiny levy on banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions that could raise billions to tackle poverty and climate change, at home and abroad. It is backed by a range of charities, NGOs, faith groups and trades unions. Labour and Conservative leaders have avoided any reference to the idea in the manifestos.
The Green Party has given its full support to the ideas, in its manifesto.
The Robin Hood Tax campaign has also raised questions about the Liberal Democrat proposals. "This is a really important first step for the Lib Dems" they said. "But we do hope that their promise to ‘bring forward urgent proposals for a financial transaction tax’ means moving ahead with like-minded countries without waiting for the rest of the world, or even going it alone.
Today (15 April), the Director of CAFOD, Chris Bain said that to miss the opportunity of bringing in a Robin Hood Tax would be “morally bankrupt”.
His comments were supported by the United Reformed Church (URC), the Salvation Army and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The Salvation Army have made the Robin Hood Tax a central plank of their manifesto for the next government.
“Whilst we welcome the steps towards bank reform and levies detailed in the election manifestos, we simply don’t think they go far enough,” explained Rev John March, Moderator of the URC General Assembly.
He insisted that “the main political parties have missed an historic opportunity by failing to back this simple solution to creating a fairer economic and social contract between financial institutions and the British public. It’s popular, it’s fair and it represents a just distribution of risks and rewards.”
Other Christian organisations backing the Robin Hood Tax include the thinktank Ekklesia, Church Action on Poverty (CAP) and the aid agencies Tearfund and CAFOD. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, describes the plan as “an opportunity to make a real difference to the poor”.
Campaigners for a Robin Hood Tax say that it could start as low as 0.005 per cent and average 0.05 per cent. They point out that when levied on the vast amount of money that goes round the global finance system every day, through transactions such as foreign exchange, derivatives trading and share deals, it could raise hundreds of billions of pounds every year.
Tearfund's Paul Cook insisted that, “This tax is an ethical way of releasing a very small percentage from the largest transactions – but it will make a huge difference to some of the world’s poorest communities.”
Church Action on Poverty (CAP) are supporting the Robin Hood Tax on both moral and economic grounds. They say that it could make a major contribution to the struggle against poverty in the UK as well as internationally.
“Drastic public spending cuts of the kind being discussed by all parties will make matters far worse for millions of people struggling across the UK – and will push thousands more into poverty and debt,” said CAP's Niall Cooper, “To avoid this happening, the government urgently needs to raise new revenue without damaging individuals or the wider economy. The Robin Hood Tax fits this bill exactly.”.