The Archbishop of Canterbury has aligned himself with the Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX) protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral and sympathised with calls for a “Robin Hood tax” on financial institutions.
Dr Rowan Williams, writing in the Financial Times, said it was widely perceived that society was paying for the “errors and irresponsibility” of the banks. Dr Williams said tax was one of the specific measures that might meet the aims of the Occupy LSX protesters.
The Archbishop’s comments come after the cathedral announced it would not be taking legal action against the protesters, who have now been camped outside the building for more than two weeks. The City of London Corporation said it was “pausing” its legal efforts to remove the demonstrators.
The Occupy LSX protest is an “expression of widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment”, Dr Williams wrote in his article.
He said: “There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of messages not getting through; of impatience with a return to ‘business as usual’ – represented by still soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices.”
The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace last week produced a document that supported a “Robin Hood tax” on bond, share and currency transactions. Dr Williams praised the document, which also suggests splitting the trading and retail arms of banks and putting more obligations on banks that were recapitalised with money from the public.
Dr Williams continued: “These ideas – ideas that have been advanced from other quarters, religious and secular, in recent years – do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent. If we want to take seriously the moral agenda of the protesters at St Paul’s, these are some of the ways in which we should be taking it forward.”
The City of London Corporation was due to hand the protesters a letter on Tuesday informing them they had 48 hours to leave the site or they would face High Court action. But the corporation said it was “pausing” its bid “in order to support the cathedral” and “give time for reflection” after the church changed its position.
The corporation’s policy chairman, Stuart Fraser, said: “We’ve pressed the pause button overnight on legal action affecting the highways. We want to leave more space for a resolution of this difficult issue, while at the same time not backing away from our responsibilities as a highway authority. We’re hoping to use a pause, probably of days not weeks, to work out a measured solution.”