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Our History

Here, you'll find our historical background, with highlights throughout the years.

1978

1984

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Conscience was founded as the “Peace Tax Campaign” by Stanley Keeble. It was his vision and energy that sustained the campaign through much of its early years.

Stanley

Keeble

Our first parliamentary activity
First meeting

1980

  • The first national meeting of the Peace Tax Campaign establishes an executive committee under the chairmanship of Gerald Drewett.

 

  • Alex Bryan was one of four campaigners who met with a group of MPs in 1980

1983

The campaign had more than 50 local coordinators, over 3,000 supporters. In the same year, the newsletter “Tax Direction Now”, which coordinated and cared for tax diverters, was set up.

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In this year, Plaid Cymru put Peace Tax legislation in its election manifesto – The Green Party later followed suit.

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One of the most famous war tax resisters, Canon Paul Oestreicher went to court this year.

1981

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, her correspondence with Alex Lyon MP lead to his putting an amendment to the Finance Bill to allow those with a ‘conscientious objection to paying for expenditure on defence’ to pay the military part of their taxes to the then Ministry of Overseas Development.

He failed, but 7 more MPs backed us.

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Our old logo

Our campaign's progress
Our first early day motion

1982

We ran the first Early Day Motions. Akin to a Parliamentary petition, these let MPs express an opinion and canvass support among other MPs for one Parliamentary year. Thirty-one MPs signed our first EDM, asking for a 'peace fund' with independent trustees into which we could pay the military part of our taxes to alleviate ‘poverty in the Third World’.

As the campaign grew, others joined Stan together  with others built up the campaign. Stan continued to edit the newsletter until this year.

At the same time, war tax resisters in the campaign started the Tax Diversion Network to support each other, and we got key backing from the Religious Society of Friends, who began to withhold the military part of taxes owed by staff at Friends House in London. The ensuing four-year legal case went all the way to the European Court.

Third Early Day Motion

1984

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

 

Jim Callaghan MP reintroduced it later the same year.

Campaign's progress

1986

Dennis Canavan MP presents a 10 Minute Rule Bill to establish a Peace Fund into which registered conscientious objectors could divert the military portion of their taxes. As with most Bills presented under the Ten Minute Rule, it does not receive a second reading.

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Dennis

Canavan

1st International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns was held in Tubingen, Germany.

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Arthur & Ursula 

Meanwhile, tax resisters fought on in the UK courts. Arthur Windsor becomes the first UK conscientious objector to be imprisoned for refusing to pay the military portion of his taxes.

1987

A time of change as the campaign decided to become a formal membership organisation, Mike Garnier was appointed chair and John Tasker, who had served as Treasurer since the establishment of a formal committee stepped down. John was followed as Treasurer by Chris Marsh.  

 

The Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Britain adopts conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes as a “concern” of the society as a whole.

Membership organisation

1988

2nd International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Vierhouten, the Netherlands.

1991

Monica Frisch joined the committee​.

1990

We became Conscience The Peace Tax Campaign.

Badge with our old logo

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Nigel Wild was next to join the select ranks of those who have been imprisoned for their refusal to be made complicit in killing. Nigel is a baker from Newcastle and his offer of 182 bread buns as payment in kind was refused and he was sentenced to 28 days.

Nigel Wild

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3rd International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Aosta, Italy.

Third Early Day Motion

1993

We won a Quaker peaceworker by the Quaker Peace & Service fund. Kiri Smith was our peaceworker on a one year placement to develop our work with young people,

Later this year, Roy Prockter was taken to court for his war tax resistance and although he was refused leave to appeal, the judge recognised Roy’s dilemma as genuine and said that it was a matter for Parliament. Had the Human Rights Act been in place this year, this would have amounted to a “declaration of incompatibility” and forced a discussion by MPs.

1995

Our famous £10 Note recruitment leaflet appeared, and we have since distributed over a million.

Meanwhile, vigorous lobbying by members won the support of 24 members of the European Parliament, and war tax resister Roger Franklin was imprisoned twice, eventually forcing him to legally secede from the UK. 

1992

4th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Brussels, Belgium

Badge with our old logo

1994

Neil Gerrard MP presents our second 10 Minute Rule Bill to Parliament. Again, it fails to acheive a second reading. An Early Day Motion, expressing support for the Bill attracts the support of 62 MPs. Our second Bill tried to divert our military taxes to a peacebuilding fund for the study of conflict, the conversion of the arms industry to non-military production, and support to democratic structures and human rights in areas of potential conflict.

 

We formed the Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) with foreign allies to raise the issue globally, including at the UN, where this now has consultative status. CPTI held its founding assembly at the 5th International Conference on War Tax Resistance in Hondarribia, Spain.

1996

6th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Hoddesdon, UK

Badge with our old logo

1998

7th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Delhi, India. 

2000

We organised a series of meetings of groups working on non-military approaches to security, to coordinate lobbying work.

8th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Washington DC, USA.

1999

John McDonnell MP presents a conscience petition to parliament, followed by a new 10 Minute Rule Bill.

On Monday 8 March, the day before the budget, three of our supporting MPs presented a 2,000-signature petition calling for the right to conscientiously object to the military portion of taxes. MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Neil Gerrard and John McDonnell, presented the petition on behalf  of Conscience members and Friends Meeting Houses who had been collecting signatures during February.

 

Whilst presenting the petition, John McDonnell commented that, “On the day when the government announced that in future they will link aid to ensuring that disarmament occurs in the third world, the right to conscientious objection should be recognised in this country.”

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Conscience & Peace Tax International achieves consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

2002

Early Day Motion 836 – Conscientious Objection to War was tabled by Valerie Davey, MP for Bristol West a long time supporter had put down an early day motion for us. A kind of Parliamentary potion, an early day motion gauges opinion within the House of Common. It was signed by 34 MPs in total. Ten of these are MPs who have not previously supported conscience, so congratulations are due to our member lobbyists in Caernarfon, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Calder Valley, Hammersmith & Fulham, Leeds West, Newport West, Norwich North, Shrewsbury & Atcham, St Albans and Tayside North.

9th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Hirschluch, Germany

2001

Conscience & Peace Tax International representatives make the first presentation on the issue of conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

We organised a series of meetings of groups working on non-military approaches to security, to coordinate lobbying work.

2003

After delivering peace tax returns, Worthing Against War demonstrate outside their Inland Revenue office against the war on Iraq. On the day that war taxes are collected we were joined by Neil Gerrard MP outside HM Treasury to help us deliver the first batch of Peace Tax Returns - our alternative tax form. 

Many supported have received replies from Inland Revenue in response to sending your Peace Tax Return to HM Treasury. Of the arguments given against the introduction of a peace tax the most facile is that it will be too difficult to implement and administer. 

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2004

We were a co-founder of the Peace and Security Liaison Group (PSLG), which brought together 12 NGOs who engaged in peace and security. It enhanced our objection to military taxes by encouraging policy-shapers to back the many peacebuilding alternatives. The respected expertise of the NGOs were in arms control and disarmament, conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and training in civilian peace work, conflict resolution and transformation. 

Our “Peace Tax Collectors” set up their office at the Glastonbury festival this year Hundreds of Peace Tax Returns and letters to MPs were completed and thousands of leaflets were distributed to festival goers.

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10th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Brussels, Belgium

2006

The Peace Tax Seven take their protest to the DSEi arms fair in London’s Docklands. The government spends £500 million of taxpayers’ money each year helping the arms trade. This is just one of the areas where conscientious objectors are made complicit in killing simply by paying their taxes 

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On 3 November, the Human Rights Committee made clear, once and for all, that conscientious objection to military service is protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

11th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns held in Woltersdorf, Germany

EDM 1658 

This EDM was tabled by Linda Riordan MP on 15 February and marks the 90th anniversary of conscription and the right to conscientious objection. At time of writing 24 MPs have signed, including 3 MPs new to conscience: Katy Clark (Lab, N. Ayrshire & Arran), Mark Durkan (SDLP, Foyle) and Nick Harvey (Lib Dem, N Devon). 

2005

A couple of days before tax returns were due to be sent to Inland Revenue, conscience launched its new display materials in the lobby of the new Scottish Parliament building. 

We were front page news courtesy of Shadow Chancellor, Oliver Letwin. A Scotland on Sunday journalist discovered Oliver Letwin’s support of conscience via our website while working on a story about the Peace Tax Seven. He decided that this was a story in its own right. The Daily Telegraph agreed and ran it on their front page, along with a leading article on the comment page. The story was also covered by the Morning Star and the Guardian website. 

We, together with the Peace Tax Seven, took part in the massive make poverty history demonstrations in Faslane Edinburgh The conscience stall at the Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh on 2 July was kept busy all day as a quarter of a million people waited in The Meadows to set off on the march. The “Peace Tax Inspectors” asked people to sign letters to their MPs, making the link between poverty and war. If you were not there you can download the letter from the conscience website and send it yourself. 

MPs Adam Price, John McDonnell, Neil Gerrard and David Lepper delivered Peace Tax Returns to the Treasury on Tax Day.

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2007

In the run-up to the Autumn sitting of Parliament on the 8th of October, Gordon Brown went head to head with MPs, artists, writers and civil liberties groups in an attempt to ban a demonstration by the Stop the War Coalition in Parliament Square.

 

As the police wavered, the Grim Reaper himself, tired of the waste of war, agreed to attend the demonstration on behalf of Conscience to spread the word that there are hard-nosed alternatives to war just waiting to be funded by our taxes. 

2008

Conscience wins campaign award

Our campaigner Nick Wilson was presented with a campaign honour by the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.

 

The prize is in memory of legendary activist Sheila McKechnie, who first campaigned against Gordon Brown when they were at university together. 

To win it, Nick had to enthuse a tough panel of veteran campaigners led by former Middle East hostage Terry Waite. With expert advice on strategy and media and the chance to access the defence minister, this award is a major boost for Conscience.

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12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in Manchester, UK

2011

We were honoured to receive a JRCT grant in order to produce our report on engaging Afghanistan

2010

Multiple demonstrations across London with ‘Taxman Tom’ and our ‘Tax Collector Grim Reaper’ at anti-war protests and the Chilcot Inquiry; we have held a discussion at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, hosted a debate on defence spending; exchanged ideas with other Peace Tax organisations across the world, held stalls at festivals.

We also held a debate picking up on a key theme of the work of the Peace and Security Liaison Group (PSLG),

13th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in Sandefjord, Norway.

2012

On Friday 6th July, the activists of Faslane Peace Camp rose early, as they do every day.  This time, they were joined by other activists, geographers and academics, to hold an ‘academic seminar blockade’ at the North Gate of RNAD Coulport – better known as Faslane nuclear base.  

Brenda Boughton, Peace Tax Seven campaigner and long time conscience supporter, died on 6th March, after a short illness, aged 87. 

2013

14th International War Tax Resisters & Peace Tax Campaign Conference was hosted in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Our ‘meet the real peacebuilders’ campaign aimed to connect with real peacebuilders around the world, introducing them and their work to our members and supporters and government. We used real life examples of peacekeeping work to campaign for the development of the government’s inter-departmental Conflict Pool which funds peacebuilding activities. The Conflict Pool funds conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping activities to reduce the number of people around the world whose lives are affected by violent conflict 

We incorporated on 23rd December and the company name is ‘The Conscience Campaign Limited’. Our company Number is: 8824854. 

2018

We launched our report, ‘The Minister for Peace and Disarmament: An Assessment’, in parliament. The report was written by Dr Tim Street: Minister for Peace and Disarmament

We hosted 'Aid not Arms' providing a panel to experts in the peacebuilding sector, we wanted to ensure that aid focuses on preventing human rights abuses, international development and eradicating poverty.

2016

We launched the Taxes for Peace Bill in parliament. It called for individuals to have the right to opt for the military part of our taxes to go to peaceful purposes instead. We organised the Parliamentary reception on March 2nd which is to be hosted by Ruth Cadbury MP.

 

March 2nd marked 100 years since all unmarried men aged 18-41 were deemed to have enlisted in the British Army as a consequence of the 1916 Military Service Act. This Act simultaneously introduced compulsory military service and the inclusive right to conscientious objection in Britain for the first time.

 

2020

We launched our Voices of Conscientious Objection project.

2019

On 26 October, we organised an event outside the Ministry of Defence in London: ‘Count the money we spend on nuclear weapons – and divert it to saving our climate’.

15th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns hosted in Edinburgh, Scotland

2021

We started our education programme, 'Education For Peace'. 

2022

16th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns hosted in Geneva, Switzerland. 

TODAY

We continue to work to create a world where taxes are used to nurture peace, not pay for war. 

2023

45 years anniversary

The establishment of Conscience

1979

The establishment of Conscience

Conscience was founded as the “Peace Tax Campaign” by Stanley Keeble. It was his vision and energy which sustained the campaign through much of its early years.

1981

Our first parliamentary activity

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, her correspondence with Alex Lyon MP lead to his putting an amendment to the finance bill.

1983

The campaign's progress

The campaign (the old logo on the right) had more than 50 local coordinators, over 3,000 supporters. In the same year, the newsletter “Tax Direction Now”, which coordinated 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.

1984

Early Day Motion

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

1987

Formal membership organisation 

A time of change as the campaign decided to become a formal membership organisation.

1990

Change of name

The campaign changed its name to “Conscience: The Peace Tax Campaign”.

1994

Second Parliamentary Bill & Conscience International

Our second Parliamentary Bill tries 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 to support democratic structures and human rights in areas of potential conflict. Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) was also formed to raise the issue globally, including at the UN, where it now has consultative status.

2004

Co-founding Group & the work of the Peace Tax Seven

Conscience was a co-founder of the Peace and Security Liaison Group (PSLG), which brought together NGOs engaged in peace and security (read more about PSLG).

In the same year, the Peace Tax Seven (read here more) started the process of seeking a judicial review. They fought for the legal recognition of freedom of conscience as a basic human right to be realised in UK tax policy. 

2009

Change of name

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.

2016

Taxes for Peace Bill parliamentary launch

We launched the Taxes for Peace Bill in parliament. It called for individuals to have the right to opt for the military part of our taxes to go to peaceful purposes instead.  Taxes for Peace Bill 2016

2018

The Minister for Peace and Disarmament parliamentart launch

We launched our report, ‘The Minister for Peace and Disarmament: An Assessment’, in parliament. The report was written by Dr Tim Street: Minister for Peace and Disarmament

2018

15th International Conference

We hosted and organised the 15th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, in Edinburgh. Full details, including a video diary, can be found here: International Conference 2019

Today

We continue to work to create a world where taxes are used to nurture peace, not pay for war. 

Today, there are campaigns all across the world, from Canada to Colombia, the US to Ukraine (link to page with international campaigns https://conscienceonline.org.uk/conscience-peace-tax-international/

Watch our webinar about the history of Conscientious Objection

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