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Simon Heywood

Here you'll find Simon's statement and what have his conscience led him to do.

Simon Heywood.png

University lecturer, Sheffield


"My starting point in this is the recognition that, in order to live a fully human life, I must acknowledge all human life as equal in value to my own. As I am a human being, nothing can entitle me to decide when and how another human being shall die.


For me, this is bound up in a recognition of God as the source of all life, and in upholding of the historic peace testimony which has been essential to Quakers, from the years when George Fox “lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars,” to the New Zealand Quakers who declared in 1987 that they “totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances.”

"It is currently impossible for any taxpaying UK citizen to live by this principle without coming into conflict with the government and the courts, because the courts enforce a policy which compels the individual taxpayer to contribute about 10% of their total tax bill to military expenditure, irrespective of conscientious objection.


This ignores the unique personal urgency of the issue of the deliberate taking of human life, which is already conceded in the right to conscientious objection to military service (a right established at the height of the Great War in 1916) and in the disinclination of political parties to dictate to MP’s consciences on comparable issues such as capital punishment. Respect for human life and freedom of conscience is enshrined in UK law and justifies a minor and well-precedented adjustment to UK tax administration."

Freedom of conscience, as enshrined in article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is now supported in UK law by the 1998 Human Rights Act. That is, UK tax policy ignores the fact that, on this specific issue, UK citizens arguably already have the right to translate an ancient and compelling conscientious objection directly into tax policy. It is vitally important that they do so.

The world cannot support the humanitarian, economic, environmental, legal, costs of war. One week’s global military expenditure could end world poverty forever. A single fighter aircraft equals over sixty council houses. 

The costs of the Iraq war dwarf spending on international development, which alone can create the global prosperity that will prevent future wars. And no war is inevitable. The existence of weapons encourages war; there is no truly “defensive” arms spending."

By pouring taxpayers’ subsidies into prestigious but barely profitable arms industry, the UK floods the globe with cheap weapons and makes an unjust world a more volatile and dangerous place. All wars are deliberately and institutionally created by the rejection of negotiated settlement and non-violent resolution of conflict. International events in recent years have illustrated the waste and madness of war and the urgent necessity to build a culture of peace.

90% of war casualties are now civilian, and armies are small bodies of highly trained technicians. Civilians pay for war and suffer most from it. In Iraq, US and UK military casualties are in the tens and hundreds. The Coalition forces do not even bother to count Iraqi civilian casualties of the 2003 invasion, but the website iraqbodycount lists around 10,000 verified deaths. Despite the conventional disclaimers of governments, these are not “collateral” or “accidental” casualties. Killing civilians is an intrinsic and predictable part of modern military strategy, for which, for the sake of future generations, all who prosecute wars must be held responsible. As the cost and pain of war is now largely a civilian business, so peacebuilding is a civilian responsibility, incumbent on each individual, no matter how powerless or insignificant they may feel. I am involved in this case because I believe that, in the specific case of war, I have the right to determine how my taxes are spent, and the moral obligation to exercise this right.

I want my taxes to go towards conflict resolution which works with the broader context of political, social and cultural issues and economic issues in order to transform conflicts and achieve creative solutions to violence. If my money goes on that, then I will get more peace for my pound than I will if it goes for cluster bombs.

"War tax is both a general and a personal issue. At the general level, in the long run, military preparations and operations have never made the world a safer or fairer place. Threats and violence have usually provoked answering threats and violence, or led to total devastation. If, as a species, we have the brains and initiative to set up military systems for use in reaction to political crises, then, as a species, we certainly have the brains and initiative to set up cultural and political systems to manage the crises in peaceful ways, or prevent them arising altogether.


Building a culture of peace is therefore a question of imagination and political will. It is a difficult, complicated and uncertain process, but then again, so is war, and we manage that often enough.


Tax arrangements are one part of the political and civic culture which must be developed in peaceful directions consistently at the general level. At the personal level, war tax is a more serious issue than any peacetime tax expenditure. I am not trying to claim the right to pick and choose issues right across the board regarding the use of my tax. But if any UK government tries to spend a penny of my tax undermining international law, then as a citizen of the world I have the legal right to forbid this use of my money. And if any UK government tries to spend a penny of my tax destroying innocent lives, then as a human being I have the moral duty to exercise that right."

What have his conscience led him to do?

2002 August - Sought advice of conscience and reserved all tax on income from self-employment for 2001-2 
2003 April - Reserved 10% of tax on all income for 2002-3 from earnings from self-employment 
2004 April - Arrears offset by rebate unrelated to protest 
2006 October - Directions hearing at Sheffield County Court over 463 GBP unpaid tax + interest. 21 days' notice to pay. 30 October: Pay up in full, under protest.

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