MP Ruth Cadbury introduces Taxes for Peace Bill

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ruth cadburyA hundred years after the British Government legalised the right of conscientious objection to military service – the first country in the world to do so – a Bill to extend this right into the tax system is being introduced to Parliament by Ruth Cadbury MP, a descendent of WW1 conscientious objectors affected by the 1916 clause.

The Bill would increase funding for, and lay more emphasis on peacebuilding, development and diplomacy work, more economical, ethical and efficient forms of security.

The 10-minute rule Bill will be read on 19 July 19 2016 by the MP for Brentford and Isleworth, who has been working closely with a campaigning organisation, Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War, to secure the right to pay for peace, not war. This Quaker inspired NGO has been campaigning for the recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors to military tax since 1979.

Friends will remember Peace Tax stalwarts who had possessions seized and auctioned in lieu of taxes, including Birmingham’s Else and Joseph Pickvance, Stroud’s John Marjoram and Gloucester’s Ursula and Arthur Windsor. Arthur was actually imprisoned for 28 days, only to receive a parliamentary welcome on his release, conveyed to the House by MP Dennis Canavan. Others on PAYE made sure of withdrawing their war tax equivalent by making gift-aided charitable donations.

The Bill aims to create a legal structure that would allow citizens who object to paying for others to kill to redirect the military portion of their taxes into a fund dedicated to non-military security, conflict resolution and prevention work – enabling them to contribute to national security with a clear conscience.

At present, people with profound moral and religious beliefs that stop them taking part in any violent activity are forced by the taxation system to directly fund armed conflict and deadly and destructive weaponry.

conscience

Since 1916, the right to “… freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” has been recognised in every significant international treaty. Conscientious objection to military tax is a manifestation of this right. This Bill has a legal precedent in the 1916 Military Service Act. This right should be updated in line with changes in warfare which is now fought more and more with money, not manpower.

It is taken for granted that we contribute taxes for military preparations; this is conscription by proxy because we live in a country where civilian men are no longer required for military service. Military tax is an issue of conscience, not a political preference – this type of hypothecation could not therefore set a precedent for selective taxation.

The Bill would increase funding for, and lay more emphasis on peacebuilding, development and diplomacy work. These are more economical, ethical and efficient forms of security.  

At its Parliamentary launch, Ruth Cadbury endorsed the Bill by stating “I want to pay for our national security, in fact I want to strengthen it. The Taxes for Peace Bill does this by investing in the most effective form of defence: conflict prevention.” She continued: “In an age where more and more people are concerned about spending their money ethically, this is an idea whose time has come.”

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