ALISTAIR Darling was accused of letting the banks off the hook after refusing to impose a new tax on them unless it was part of an international agreement.
Charities and campaigners for a so-called "Robin Hood Tax" reacted angrily to the Chancellor's refusal to act – he warned that thousands of jobs would be lost if the UK went it alone. His remarks were a swipe at the Conservatives' pledge to introduce a new bank levy, unilaterally if necessary.
Mr Darling restated his support for a global levy on the banks, calling for it to be "brought forward quickly". But he insisted such a move had to be "internationally co-ordinated", adding: "Going it alone would costs thousands of jobs, not just in London but across the country."
Supporters of the proposed tax said Mr Darling had failed to show global leadership.
The Robin Hood Tax Campaign, which claims 150,000 supporters, said: "Poor people were banking on the Chancellor to play Robin Hood, but instead he has chosen to let rich financial institutions off the hook." Oxfam campaigns director Thomas Schultz-Jagow said:
"Robin Hood gathered his merry men by leading from the front, not by waiting for global agreement."
Meanwhile, Mr Darling said the 50 per cent bank bonus tax had already raised 2 billion for the public purse.
He said the windfall tax, on bonuses above 25,000, had raised far more than the 550 million originally expected.
The Treasury said there was evidence the tax had caused award payments to be "reduced to some extent". A number of bank bosses – including the heads of Barclays, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland – opted to forgo annual bonuses.
The Treasury said: "It is only fair those who still choose to award substantial payments should contribute more to the fiscal consolidation of the economy."
It also emerged that shares in Lloyds Banking Group were trading above the government's average investment per share on at least one measure for the first time since the credit crunch.
The state's average investment per share in Lloyds is 63.2p, net of fees. That is at a level analysts say is likely to revive the debate on whether the government should "test" the appetite for shares in bailed-out banks Lloyds and RBS