Conscience launches the #PeaceTaxBill in Parliament

by Shaughan Dolan ~ March 22nd, 2016. Filed under: News.

March 2nd 2016 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, which simultaneously introduced compulsory military service and the inclusive right to conscientious objection in Britain for the first time.

It was on this day that Conscience launched the Taxes for Peace Bill in Parliament, sending a powerful message that the right of conscientious objection needs to be extended in the country.

This theme was picked up by Jane Dawson, representing Quakers in Britain, on the night who stated with confidence that:

“Britain could once again lead internationally in pushing conscientious objection further”

The launch was well attended by Conscience members

The launch was well attended by Conscience supporters

Peace, taxes, conscientious objection, human rights, forgotten history, development, diplomacy, peacebuilding – no topic was left untouched by our 6 speakers.

On the theme of WW1 commemoration, we heard from Liz Saville-Roberts MP about why it is so important to mark the 1916 conscience clause as, in doing so, “…we are reclaiming the stories history has decided aren’t the ones we want to display”

Ruth Cadbury MP, the sponsor of the Taxes for Peace Bill, drew our attention to Britain’s nuclear weapons system, Trident. She spoke of how a weapons system that “…is specifically designed to end human life on a massive scale and destabilise our fragile environment has no place in any country which values its humanity. It’s a waste of our labourers’ talent, who should be building the next generation homes, and a waste of the ingenuity of our engineers who should be building the next generation of renewable energy production.”

By discussing Trident, Ruth Cadbury highlighted the fact that the progress of individual rights in regards to warfare has been accompanied by a regression to ever more powerful and inhumane methods of destruction, from incendiary weapons to the threat of nuclear genocide. We do not have the individual freedom of voluntary consent to this – as technological warfare is paid for with our taxes.

Sir Richard Jolly, leading development economist and former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN finished the evening by imagining a demilitarised world. He spoke of his work promoting ‘Human Security’ and non-violent conflict resolution at the United Nations, and of the shockingly small amount our government spends on ‘soft power’, such as cultural influence. By allowing individuals to invest in peace, the Taxes for Peace Bill would lay more emphasis on development, diplomacy and non-violent conflict prevention work – more economic, effective and just forms of national security.

Together, all of our speakers demonstrated why the centenary this year is not simply an occasion to celebrate Britain’s leading role in the democratisation of war, or to commemorate the sacrifices men and women made for our freedom of conscience. Whilst commemorating WW1 COs and remembering history’s forgotten men and women, the Taxes for Peace Bill recognises the need to bring conscientious objection up to date in this country, as warfare is still taking place in our name, with our money.

100 years on, as Ruth Cadbury concluded:

“We stand in the same movement with those then and now who do not want their labours conscripted into war…conscientious objection to military tax is an idea whose time has come”.


Ruth Cadbury MP with the Conscience team

Ruth Cadbury MP with the Conscience team

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