26th June 2012
The BMA will back a campaign for a ‘Tobin tax’ on banking financial transactions to raise funds for public services.
Following an impassioned debate and close votes, the meeting supported the call led by Manchester medical student Khalil Secker for the BMA to add its name to the list of trade unions, non-governmental organisations and governments that supported the proposed tax.
Mr Secker said: ‘We are told that we live in a time of austerity but this year bankers were paid £10bn in bonuses.’
He added that the Tobin tax, or the financial transaction tax, of 0.05 per cent, would raise an estimated £20bn for the UK each year. This could be reinvested in the NHS, public services, fighting climate change and overseas humanitarian aid.
Mr Secker said former BMA president Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Unison, the National Union of Teachers, the United Nations, Oxfam, medical student campaign network Medsin UK, two Nobel prize winners for economics and the French and German governments were among those that backed the concept.
Cambridge medical student Arrash Yassaee said the proposal was ‘one of the most flawed’ to be put forward at the 2012 annual meeting and ‘goes beyond the remit of what the BMA should be fighting for’.
Mr Yassaee said there was no evidence the tax would work and claimed it could adversely affect pension schemes. ‘We should leave tax [matters] to governments, to think tanks,’ he said.
Sheffield consultant psychiatrist Paul Miller also argued that it was ‘an ill-conceived proposal’ that could drive the banking sector out of the UK.
Dr Miller said: ‘Unless it is universal it will not work. If you think the entire world is going to impose this tax then I am astonished.’
He added that support from French and German governments for the Tobin tax was because they were ‘jealous of the success’ of the banking sector in London.
However, the meeting expressed support for the Tobin tax by 53 per cent to 44 per cent. The meeting also called on the BMA to lobby the government to implement the Tobin tax.