history

Stan KeebleStanley Keeble conscience was founded in 1979 as the “Peace Tax Campaign” by Stanley Keeble. It was his vision and energy which sustained the campaign through much of its early years. As the campaign grew, others joined Stan and together they built up the campaign. Stan continued to edit the newsletter until 1982 and, though he stepped down from the committee in 1985, he remained actively involved until his death in 1996.

The first chairman, Gerald Drewett, served from 1980 until 1986 and later returned to the Executive Committee to serve as Treasurer from 2001 to 2002.

From the start, the “Peace Tax Campaign” involved both those who wanted to stay within the law while campaigning to change it, and those who felt driven to follow their conscience, even if that meant breaking the law. These different approaches have usually proved to be complementary. Indeed, when Jenny Aste attempted to divert her war taxes in 1981, her correspondence with Alex Lyon MP lead to his putting an amendment to the finance bill – the campaign’s first parliamentary activity.

Harold Holloway was a campaigner with conscience and one of the first people to try diverting their tax to the Overseas Development Administration as a way of ensuring that he did not pay for the MoD.

By 1983 the campaign had more than 50 local co-ordinators, over 3,000 supporters. In the same year, the newsletter “Tax Direction Now”, which co-ordinated and cared for tax diverters, was set up. Also in this year Plaid Cymru put Peace Tax legislation in its election manifesto – The Green Party later followed suit. Old conscience logo
The old conscience logo

The campaign put forward its third Early Day Motion in 1984 and made clear its demand for a “peacebuilding fund which will promote security in a non-military manner.”

1987 was a time of change as the campaign decided to become a formal membership organisation. The previous year saw the first International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in Germany. Today, there are campaigns all across the world, from Canada to Colombia, the US to the Ukraine.

In 1990, the campaign changed its name to “conscience The Peace Tax Campaign”.

conscience’s second Parliamentary Bill in 1994 tried to divert military taxes to a peacebuilding fund for the study of conflict. It also aimed to convert the arms industry to non-military production, and support to democratic structures and human rights in areas of potential conflict. The Conscience and Peace Tax International was also formed together with foreign allies to raise the issue globally, including at the UN, where this now has consultative status.

In 2004, conscience was a co-founder of the Peace and Security Liaison Group (PSLG), which brought together NGOs engaged in peace and security. The PSLG worked to establish mechanisms for policy dialogue on security-related topics between NGOs and the British government that was of practical benefit to both parties. It sought to engage government officials, academics, think tanks and NGOs in discussions that looked beyond the government’s headline policies on promoting peace and delivering security. It aimed to deliver a more consistent approach to the formulation and implementation of policies which promote peace and security. The PSLG roundtable meetings finished in 2010.

In 2006 conscience launched a second website – www.PeacePays.org. This website provided a tool to support the idea of non-military security. It provides information on the benefits of non-military security and gives examples of it in action. The website is also host to our “Peace for Pounds” quiz which highlights the vast cost and ineffectiveness of military security.

This creation of the Peace Pays website acted as something of a turning point for conscience, and the organisation soon moved towards greater advocacy for non-military security. In 2009, it was time for another name change, with the organisation’s full name becoming “conscience TAXES FOR PEACE NOT WAR”, to reflect its aim to bring about a situation where national security is ensured using non-military rather than military means. Today, conscience works to create a world where taxes are used to nurture peace, not pay for war. We have expanded our scope to provide information and resources to support the development of non-military security – a more effective and better value form of security than military security. We campaign for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war. We also still campaign for the legal right of those with a demonstrable conscientious objection to war to have the entire military part of their taxes spent on peacebuilding.

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