The poor are becoming poorer and the rich need to step in and redress the balance, the Salvation Army said yesterday (9 March), during a debate in London.
The comments came as a representative spoke up for the Robin Hood Tax campaign during a discussion at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).
The keynote speaker, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, an international economist and author of The End of Poverty, actor Bill Nighy, fellow campaigner and screenwriter Richard Curtis, and Dr Clare Melamed, head of policy co-ordination for Action Aid were joined by Major Ivor Telfer, The Salvation Army’s secretary for programmes in the UK and Ireland territory. Alan Beattie, World Trade editor at the Financial Times, chaired the event.
In a presentation to explain The Salvation Army’s support for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, Major Ivor Telfer said: “The moral argument is clear – the poor are becoming poorer and the rich need to step in and redress the balance, not giving the poor a hand out, but a hand up.
“In 1890, our founder William Booth launched his book and scheme, 'In Darkest England and the Way Out.' In this book Booth spoke of the submerged tenth, estimated at 3 million people in the UK. Today, 13 million people, or a submerged fifth of people in the UK are living in poverty. So, 120 years after Booth’s ground-breaking work, the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer.”
Major Telfer continued: “The Salvation Army is pleased to be here as one of the representatives of the voiceless poor in the UK. Motivated by our Christian values, we have been working with the most vulnerable in society since the mid-19th century. Today, The Salvation Army is an apolitical international Christian church and charity operating in 119 countries around the world.
“To fund our response, we need to negotiate hard with public and private sector funders to ensure the best possible outcome for the deserving poor. The financial transaction tax could help the third sector to dramatically reduce the 13 million people living in poverty in the UK.”
At the RSA discussion, broadcast live on the web, Jeffrey Sachs said the financial sector was “undertaxed and out of control” and called for greater regulation and taxation of the markets.
Sachs warned the world was in danger of not meetings its global commitments, as the pledge to increase global aid by $50 billion, made at the Gleneagles G8 meeting five years ago after the Make Poverty History campaign, is now $21 billion short.
Sachs argued that a financial transaction tax, in addition to supporting public services in the UK, could also be used to plug this gap in international aid.
Bill Nighy introduced the film The Banker, which helped launch the Robin Hood Tax campaign on 10 February and which has been viewed online by up to 500,000 million people.
In his speech to the packed audience at the RSA, Major Ivor Telfer also said: “Our recent research, conducted in partnership with the University of Kent and Cardiff University, entitled The Seeds of Exclusion, looks at the causes of social exclusion for 967 residents using our services for people who are homeless. The results show that negative experiences in childhood have a significant bearing on experiences in adulthood. Poor relationships with mother or father are more likely to lead to homelessness and / or anti-social behaviour and 26 per cent of those surveyed had been homeless as a child.
“Last month the Marmot Review of the social determinants of health confirmed the growing divide between rich and poor in the UK and the fact that, even in the UK, the postcode lottery means that where you are born determines how long you live for. The Salvation Army’s experience confirms the conclusion that 'there is not a do nothing option'.
“As Government spending cuts come, whoever wins the next election, the voluntary sector in the UK will be required to implement government funded contracts for less income, to seek more funds to implement front-line support services which cannot be funded through local area agreements, and to find it increasingly difficult to raise more funds from an already cash-strapped public.”