David Cameron backs Archbishop on top pay

 

David Cameron has backed the Archbishop of Canterbury's call for greater responsibility by high earners in the City, while playing down the idea of a "Robin Hood tax" on the banks.

The Prime Minister said Dr Rowan Williams spoke "for the whole country" when he condemned the excesses of those at the top of society.

However he told MPs that the Government would only support a tax on financial transactions if it was adopted around the world.

In an article for the Financial Times, Dr Williams aligned himself with the anti-capitalist protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral by listing the tax as one of the specific measures that might advance their aims.

He described the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration as an "expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment".

At Prime Minister's questions, Mr Cameron said: "I think the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks, frankly, for the whole country when he says that it is unacceptable in a time of difficulty when people at the top of our society are not showing signs of responsibility."

He acknowledged there was "widespread support" for the principles behind the financial transaction tax - dubbed the Robin Hood tax - but said that Britain would only back it if it was adopted worldwide.

He added: "We must be careful that we don't allow other countries, including some European countries, to use a campaign for this tax - which they know is unlikely to be adopted in the short-term - as an excuse for getting off their aid commitments."

Mr Cameron has been sent a letter urging him to back the Robin Hood Tax signed by 70 organisations ranging from Oxfam to the TUC, the Methodist Church and Barnardo's children's charity.

The signatories said a levy on financial transactions would be "the most popular tax in history".

An IpsosMori poll for the Robin Hood Tax campaign found that almost half (48%) of the 1,001 people questioned on October 28-30 supported a levy on financial transactions and less than a quarter (23%) opposed the idea.

Meanwhile, members of Chapter at St Paul's Cathedral again met delegates from Occupy London Stock Exchange.

Four members of Chapter attended the informal talks with six camp representatives from the outreach, health and safety, media, legal and multi-faith and belief liaison groups.

Ronan McNern, 36, a camp supporter who attended the meeting, said: "We are in a proper dialogue and working out how to work together."

Mr McNern said the main topics of discussion were health and safety and ensuring that upcoming events at the cathedral run smoothly.

St Paul's suspended legal action against the protest camp outside the cathedral yesterday.

And the City of London Corporation, which was due to hand a letter to the protesters warning them they had 48 hours to clear the site or face High Court action, has said it will continue its "pause" on legal action against the protesters.

Stuart Fraser, the corporation's policy chairman, said the main objective was to ensure the highway was clear.

"The church has changed its position with regards to a camp being on its land, which means that we have had to rethink as well," Mr Fraser said.

"So we have pressed the pause button so that discussions can take place with protesters and others on how we can resolve the problem we face as a local authority - namely camping on the public highway."

He said the protesters did not have the right to camp on a public highway indefinitely and the corporation had a legal obligation to maintain access to the highway.

"Let's hope talks can produce some early acceptable results," he said.

The campsite was set up on October 15 after activists organised on Facebook and gathered in the City to attempt an occupation of the London Stock Exchange in imitation of anti-capitalist protests on Wall Street.

When police cordoned off the entrances to the square where the Stock Exchange is located, protesters set up tents in front of the nearby cathedral instead.

PA

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