The Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury signalled his support for the introduction of a so-called “Robin Hood Tax” on financial institutions as he gave a powerful speech to an anti-austerity meeting.
The Right Reverend Mark Rylands addressed an audience of more than 100 people at Shrewsbury Abbey last night at the inaugural meeting of the Shropshire People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
Speaking from the pulpit, he said he believed it was right to follow the example of Jesus in speaking up for people in need.
He denied that he was jumping into a political debate by agreeing to attend and address the meeting.
“Never mind Benefits Street, Jesus never made any distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor,” he said.
“As a church, we see the fall-out when wages don’t keep up with prices, when the benefit system changes quickly and people get caught in the cracks.”
He said he had recently been speaking with officials from Barnabas Church, who run Shrewsbury Food Bank.
The bishop said the organisation was “overwhelmed” with people calling at the food bank and asking for help with debt problems. He added: “They are not ‘scroungers’, but just ordinary folk who are struggling to make ends meet.”
He said while he supported the Government’s efforts to cut the nation’s debts, he believed ensuring corporations and financial institutions paid a fair share of tax was vital to solving the country’s problems.
“We need to press for tax justice to reach the tax evaders and tax avoiders,” he said.
“I believe the coalition is right to try and stop us going into more and more debt. We can’t expect our children and grandchildren to bear burdens and pick up the tab for us. But how we go about it matters.”
He said that like former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he supported of the introduction of a so-called Robin Hood tax, which would be a 0.05 per cent tax on financial sector company transactions.
Campaigners claim such a tax could raise £250 billion a year globally, but the idea is opposed by the financial sector.
“Let us not be satisfied when they say it is unenforceable. Think of the effort that is put into tackling benefit fraud. What if as much effort was put into making a Robin Hood tax work?”
He was one of several speakers to the People’s Assembly, set up to bring together a broad spectrum of groups to campaign against the effects of austerity.