Call for 'Robin Hood tax' on banking transactions

The clamour for a global tax on banking transactions gathered pace last night, as further evidence emerged of investment-bank returning to bumper profits.

A coalition of charities, unions and aid agencies have called on the UK's political parties to support a global "Robin Hood tax" on financial transactions that could raise up to £250bn every year to fight poverty, protect public services and tackle climate change.

It came as the Swiss banking giant UBS delivered its first quarterly profit since the financial crisis emerged and the Australian investment bank Macquarie said it was on track to deliver full-year profits of more than A$1bn (£558m).

The Robin Hood tax campaign is supported by 50 organisations including Oxfam, the TUC, Barnardo's, ActionAid and the Salvation Army.

The campaign will be launched today with an online promotional film written by Richard Curtis, the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and starring Bill Nighy.

Yesterday, the campaign beamed an image with the words "Be part of the world's greatest bank job" on to the Bank of England in London. The tax would apply only to transactions between financial institutions, such as for shares and derivatives.

Barbara Stocking, the chief executive of Oxfam, said: "A tiny tax on banks would make a massive difference to the millions of ordinary people around the globe forced into extreme poverty by the economic crisis."

The UK campaign – which today wrote a letter to this country's political parties – is part of an international movement which has been gaining momentum. The UK, German and French leaders, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, have all spoken out in recent months in support of some form of transaction tax.

The financial heavyweights who are backing the tax include the Financial Services Authority's Lord Turner, George Soros, Warren Buffett and Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland. While different rates of tax would apply to different types of transactions, the campaign says they could start at 5p for every £1,000 traded.

In a sign of the good times returning to investment banking, UBS yesterday reported net profits of Sfr1.2bn (£718m) in the final quarter of 2009, compared with a loss of Sfr564m in the previous quarter. Macquarie said its net profits for the six months to 31 March would be in line with its first half's A$479m, but this was below analyst expectations.