Tesco’s self interest

Meredith Alexander

Head of Trade and Corporates

It’s not surprising that Sir Terry Leahy is against a supermarket watchdog ("Tesco chief attacks plan for watchdog", Financial Times February 12).

As Tesco’s CEO, he knows an ombudsman would expose the bullying tactics that supermarkets use against their suppliers, such as retrospective price reductions, last-minute cancellations and delayed payments. These unfair practices are bankrupting small farmers both in the UK and in the developing world.

Sir Terry Leahy claims that a watchdog is against the consumer interest. However the Competition Commission’s exhaustive research found many supermarket buying practices damage consumer welfare in the long run because they stifle investment and innovation in food production.

Consumers themselves agree. A YouGov poll shows that 8 out of 10 consumers want a watchdog to regulate supermarket power.


Tweeting the Big Biofuels debate

Aggy Hall

Digital Campaigner

The best thing about this debate is the Q&A.  We all know that climate change is a massive issue.  We know that biofuels are extremely controversial (have you seen the debacle happening on Twitter at the moment?  Check out #biofuels).  But why is a fuel that promised to be so good actually so bad?

This is your chance to ask the questions that matter to you most. We want to know them.  We want to find the answers for you (a bit like a free, biofuels version of AQA). For me, what the alternative is to biofuels is a pretty top question – I'll be eager to find out more. But back to you -

Ask me the questions now, and I will do my best to ask the top specialists attending the event.  I'll be tweeting away all evening, so you can follow the goings-on live on Tuesday evening –  tweet me then if you like. We want this debate to involve everyone who is interested, online and offline.  We will showcase the debate happening on Twitter using Scribble Live on our biofuels debate page and on this blog.

Send me your question(s) any way you like:

* Facebook me. You can private message or write on the wall at

* Tweet me @actionaidliz . Use 2 hashtags please: #biofuels #bigdebate – these are what we'll be using on the night.

* Email me at

* Comment on this blog post - just write in your question below

I'll feedback fully on what happened afterwards (as well as tweeting it live).

Who is going to be there?

If you're wondering who we're going to fire your questions at, here's the list.

     -  Ben Webster, Environment Editor at The Times (Chair)    

     -  Greg Archer, Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and co-author of the         Gallagher review                        -  Professor Keith Smith from the University of Edinburgh                   -  Tim Rice, Biofuel Policy Officer for ActionAid UK                   

on Monday, we'll be unveiling our report and biofuels animation. After the event, we'll be posting up videos clips of it. Next week is big for the future of biofuels – make sure you get in on the action. Let me know your questions, and if you want to know more about what biofuels are all about, check out the biofuels section of our site.

Look forward to hearing from you!



Tobin or Robin

Dr Claire Melamed

Head of Policy Coordination

While I'm on here explaining the wonkish details of the Robin oHood Tax, I'll answer another question that's had some of you scratching your heads today: is the Robin Hood tax is the same thing as the Tobin Tax which people have been campaigning for since the 1970?

The FTT is certainly pretty close to the Tobin tax - but like financial markets themselves, the idea has grown in the 40 years since James Tobin first proposed it.  Tobin's idea was just to tax currency trades.  At that time, all the other things that financial markets trade now, like derivatives and bonds, swaps and futures, were just a gleam in Goldman Sachs' eye.  But now, of course, they dominate the market.  So Tobin's original idea has been extended to those products too, to reflect the realities of how markets work today. 

As the market has got more complicated, so the ways of taxing it have too.  The main difference is that while Tobin proposed just one tax rate for everything traded on the market, the Robin Hood Tax proposal is that different bits of the financial market might be taxed at different rates, to reflect the profitability of trades in those markets.  If a tax were introduced, the markets would have to be monitored carefully until the 'right' tax rate for each market was found - one which raises money without killing off the market. 


The Robin Hood tax - the hard facts

Dr Claire Melamed

Head of Policy Coordination

So after all the excitement of yesterday's launch of the Robin Hood Tax campaign, time for a hard look at the facts. 

One of the things we kept getting asked yesterday was how this tax might affect ordinary people - will it mean money being taken off all of our bank accounts or pension funds, for example?  The short answer is that it won't.  The science bit is that it's possible to design a tax which is paid mainly by the banks themselves, by only taxing what's called the 'wholesale' banking sector.  This isn't the banking that goes on on the high street, but the banking that involves the huge sums of money that wash around the world every day. 

The economics boffins who we've been talking too for months now have looked at what happens when costs and prices change in the wholesale market, and found that they aren't passed on to us who bank with 'retail' banks.  So we know that if we introduce a new cost on wholesale banking - which is what a Robin Hood tax would be - it wouldn't get passed on to the rest of us.  There's actually a bill being discussed in the US House of Representatives at the moment which is designed to tax the big traders but exempts ordinary people - this shows how it might be done in other countries too.

Because this is tax paid on every transaction, the more you trade the more you pay.   So the financial institutions who trade the most - the speculative dealers who have made the money markets into a casino - will pay the most.  And it might have the added benefit of encouraging funds who are trading with our money - like pension funds, for example - to trade less, and hold longer term and more secure investments.  This might help them to fill some of the gaping holes in pension funds that have opened up as fund managers have tried to play the markets and have lost.


The Sherrif of Nottingham fights back!

Jenny Ricks

Head of Campaigns

With the Robin Hood Tax campaign well and truly launched today, the first barrage of arrows have come our way. It’s partly a sign of success – blanket media coverage combined with a massive online presence (we’re today’s top UK trending topic on Twitter for example) has meant plenty of bloggers and commentators want to have their say!

Given that the stakes are high, it’s inevitable that a few people won’t like what we’re saying, or they feel threatened by the prospect of a Robin Hood Tax. Luckily, Robin Hood has been on hand all day to answer comments and questions on the website like, wouldn’t the entire City of London move overseas? What effect would it have on global financial markets? Won’t the banks just pass on the cost to me? Or, nice idea you load of idealists, but it’s been around since the 70s, so it won’t happen. The comments here give a pretty good idea of the tone of the debate.

There’s also been some wicked plotting, worthy of the  Sherrif of Nottingham himself (this one, obviously, not Keith Allen's feeble version) on a few online polls today – the one on the Robin Hood Tax homepage had a stream of ‘no’ votes all coming from the same IP address... not fighting fair!

The basic answer to today is that our campaign has to overcome people’s cynicism that this tax is possible – not only that, it’s morally the right thing to do and it’s financially sound.

Get involved and let us know what you think. We need your voice.


Robin Hood Tax to the rescue

Jenny Ricks

Head of Campaigns

After a frenzied few weeks of preparation, the Robin Hood Tax Campaign kicked off officially this morning. Pulling together the campaign has been hectic, but a lot of fun. It’s launched at the exact right time - there’s such a great opportunity to demand fairness out of the financial crisis for the people in developing countries, and here in the UK, dealing with the sharp end of a mess they didn’t create. I’m excited. And so's Bill Nighy...

These issues aren’t new to ActionAiders. When the financial crisis hit last year, hundreds of you leapt into action to join us at the Put People First Rally ahead of the G20 summit in London. Our tax justice campaign has since been on the case, tackling the ludicrousness of tax havens that siphon $160bn a year from developing countries. We made a major breakthrough recently. Thanks for all your amazing support so far.

Now we need you to take the next step with us. We’ve teamed up in this coalition with over 50 development, environment and UK groups to demand the Robin Hood Tax. It’s a tiny tax on banker’s transactions that could raise about £250 billion per year to help protect vital public services and jobs here in the UK, plus tackle international poverty and climate change. £19.2 billion per year of that would halve hunger by 2015. What’s not to like?

We’ll have a tough fight on our hands to make sure the political parties all get on board with our tax demands. It’s really up to you whether the politicians listen or not. It’s your voice they’re listening to.

We’ll be back in touch soon to make tax justice the talk of the town with all the parliamentary candidates. In the meantime, you can join Robin Hood’s band of merry (wo)men and be part of the world’s greatest bank job!