Archbishop Backs St. Paul Protesters’ Call for Tobin Tax Debate

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, backed calls by the Occupy London protesters camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral for the government to consider a global tax on financial transactions.

Public discussion is needed on the merits of the so-called Tobin Tax compared with alternatives, such as the U.K. government’s preference for a tax on bank assets, according to Williams. The head of the Anglican church wrote an article on his website which was published in the Financial Times today.

Williams backed calls by the Vatican last month for the recapitalization of banks and a separation of retail banking from speculative transactions.

“These ideas do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent,” Williams said. “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 Occupy London campaigners started their protest two weeks ago following the wave of similar demonstrations in the U.S.

The archbishop’s intervention came the day after the cathedral, one of London’s most iconic churches, located in the main financial district, dropped plans to take legal action against the protesters. The City of London Corporation, the municipality overseeing the district, suspended issuing eviction notices.

The corporation will reconsider its position within the next seven or eight days, Stuart Fraser, who heads its policy committee, said in an interview yesterday.

It is doubtful whether the situation will be resolved by Remembrance Sunday on Nov. 13, unless the protesters move off the public highway on to cathedral land, Fraser said.

“What we want to do is have a discussion with the protesters,” Fraser told the British Broadcasting Corp. today. “Can they accommodate our desire to clear the public highway? That’s all we’re asking.”

The Tobin Tax was the idea of U.S. Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Woodifield in Edinburgh at pwoodifield@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net.

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