Unexpected positive voices from the City

George Osborne lets the finance sector off the hook once again, whilst David Harding, Founder of WInton Capital provides support for a European FTT

Something strange is happening!

Proposals for a financial transaction tax have received support from some unlikely sources.

A few days ago, David Harding, Chief Executive of one of London’s biggest hedge funds, $26 billion Winton Capital, gave support to a European Financial Transaction Tax. Mr Harding said “I would be in favour of a low [financial transaction tax], if part of it was used to finance more supranational regulation of markets.” Not only this, but he also said that this type of tax would be a “step in the right direction.” This puts Mr Harding, one of the biggest donors to the Conservative Party, in total opposition to the views of the Chancellor.

Interestingly, Mr Harding also seems to believe that the Treasury has the interests of the financial sector ahead of those of the public, “I am surprised at the degree to which the Treasury and the FSA (Financial Services Authority] act as lobbying organisations for the financial services industry” he said. Indeed. So are we.

This followed another financial heavy-weight’s comments that the UK is in danger of becoming “too precious” about the threat of an FTT. Stephen Hester, Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, pointed out to the Treasury Select Committee that Britain already has a tax on stocks and share transactions, known as the Stamp Duty.

This is all in stark contrast to our Chancellor’s budget announcement yesterday. Gloomy news all round. Osborne reiterated his opposition (to hearty cheers from his Conservative backbenchers) to an FTT, ignoring the need to promote global health and alleviate poverty in the UK and abroad. Furthermore, he has let the bankers off the hook once more: Osborne has simply re-announced the £2.5bn a year bank levy that he has already imposed. His sleight of hand was today that the levy had been increased to 0.088% because the previous rate he had stated had been too low to raise this target amount. In so doing he implies the banks are being hit like the rest of us when of course they are not.

We are so not all in this together.

David Hillman, spokesperson for the Robin Hood Tax campaign said “bankers will breathe a collective sigh of relief that the Chancellor has again sided with the 1% against the 99%”

After claiming that they would support an FTT if implemented globally to launching an all-out attack on it post-G20, the actions of the Government are certainly not representing public will. However, with the FTT being discussed in the House of Lords on the same day as the Autumn Statement, progress is being made everyday: 2012 is going to be an exciting year. Watch this space.

By Abi Ramanan – Policy and Communications Officer, Stamp out Poverty

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