Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has used social networking site Facebook to launch a public campaign against banks handing out bonuses.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which has received £20 billion in taxpayer support, is under fire from the MP following reports that it is preparing to hand out £1 billion in bonuses. Ministers have made clear that no more public cash will be forthcoming if the banks press ahead with this year's payments to anyone but the most deserving staff and those with unbreakable contracts which specify that a bonus must be paid.

But Prescott said the bank had no obligation to honour contracts to pay bonuses.

Prescott set up the Facebook group last year, called 'No ifs, no buts, pass on the cut', which aimed to put pressure on banks to lower their lending rates in tandem with reductions in the Bank of England base rate.

On the 8 February, Prescott adapted this group to rally against the bonus proposal, and is calling on people to send in their campaign ideas and case studies and sign an online petition to stop RBS and other banks that have been bailed out by the Government giving out bonuses.

More than 3,000 people have signed up to Prescott's online campaign since its launch, including more than 1,000 that have joined the group in the last 12 hours alone.

On his Go Fourth website, Prescott said he had hundreds of emails in support of his online campaign.

In a speech at Manchester Town Hall, he warned RBS, which is 68 per cent owned by the Government: "We are all shareholders now and the shareholders demand you give up the bonus."

Prescott said he admired President Obama, who has also used online media to campaign.

"This week President Obama made it clear to the US banks that it was the taxpayer that saved them. Some of you may have read my recent blog where I showed great admiration in him standing up to the bankers and proposing the executive pay cap," wrote Prescott.

"[Obama] has also been very successful in creating an online army to support his fiscal stimulus package through Congress - and we should use that people power here. We must utilise these same online grassroots tactics to force these greedy and indifferent banks that the taxpayer bailed out to give up their bonuses."

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