Conscience the Peace Tax Campaign (UK)

  1. Name of organisation: Conscience THE PEACE TAX CAMPAIGN
  2. Organisational structure

    membership (c. 2,500)

    executive committee (8+staff)

    management committee (3+staff)

    staff (4)

    • Development Officer (f/t) – membership and fundraising, publications
    • Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer (p/t) – lobbying, war tax resistance
    • Networking Officer (p/t) – co-ordinates NGO Peace and Security Liaison Group
    • Projects Officer (f/t) – one year placement from Quakers
  3. Budget and budgetary categories: Approx. £70,000
    • Income: grants, donations from members, bank interest
    • Expenditure: project specific expenses, staff costs, administrative expenses, newsletter, campaigns/publicity, appeals, annual conference, premises
  4. Main goal of organisation

    Conscience campaigns for the legal right for those who have a conscientious objection to war to have the military part of their taxes spent on peacebuilding initiatives

  5. Current size and scope of the movement

    Membership of 2,500 almost entirely UK

  6. Report on recent history and current status regarding:
    • Legislative/parliamentary developments

      Most conscience work with parliamentarians has consisted of lobbying for debates and motions in the House of Commons. We have focused these efforts on alternatives to violent conflict (rather than directly on COMT) to increase support for non-military models of security. Our goal is to increase parliamentary (and public) awareness that conscientious objectors can actively support human security. We have campaigned to increase the network of interested and supportive MPs on these and other issues, as well as to prepare information for their use in the House.

    • Government developments

      In the past two years, conscience has significantly increased its contact with civil servants. This began with the very successful Peace Tax Return, a conscience form modeled loosely on the UK income tax return that allows people to state their objection to the military use of taxes. They then indicate either that they have withheld or that they wish they could have done so (but couldn't due to the automatic tax collection system). About 1,000 of these forms were sent to Inland Revenue in 2003 (with a tear off section to send to conscience). We have had several conversations with treasury staff about this, and included some of our supportive MPs in publicity work.

      As well, we have gathered together a group of a dozen UK peace and security related NGOs to dialogue with government about conflict prevention strategies. This has been highly successful particularly in terms of increasing conscience's profile (and cause) among the rest of the peace community here. The talks with government have also gone well; many of those who develop security policy are increasingly aware of NGO expertise on conflict prevention alternatives and paradigms - and some have become aware of the campaign for the first time.

    • War tax resistance

      the number of resisters increased during and after the Iraq war, particularly due to the UK's heavy involvement; some of these were taken to court and a few had possessions impounded by the government.

      Conscience is working with 7 war tax resisters who are applying for a judicial review of the right of the government to collect taxes for military purposes from conscientious objectors; they have engaged a top lawyer and put a great deal of work into the review.

    • Relationships with religious bodies, civil rights organisations, other groups

      Conscience has close links with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Mennonite Mission Network, which has resulted in year-long volunteer placements from both organisations

      Through the government dialogue project, Conscience is working closely with the directors of most of the leading UK peace NGOs concerned with the prevention and transformation of violent conflict; as well, staff members from 3 different NGOs form the project support group

  7. Peace-related projects supported by your organization
    • Through membership of the Network for Peace Conscience supports the promotion of peace
    • We are signatories of the Dublin Action Agenda on the Prevention of Violent Conflict, and led the UK NGO submission to the government regarding the Agenda
    • Our government dialogue pilot project has received two years of core funding from a major British charitable trust; this includes a new Networking Officer 3 days per week
  8. Publications and other resources produced by your organisation, other recent publications that you consider especially significant
    • Conscience newsletter, annual review, £10 leaflet, Peace Tax Return, my conscience directs me not to pay for war: a briefing for those considering war tax resistance, lobby briefings, elections information packages. We have recently launched our website and plan to develop it further.       
  9. Plans for the near future

    Plans for conscience in 2004/2005 include:

    • Welcoming the new Quaker volunteer, who will focus on outreach work
    • Hiring the NGO Peace and Security Liaison Group Networking Officer, and further fundraising
    • Hosting our annual event with Quaker Peace and Social Witness in October
    • Working with supportive MPs to get an Early Day Motion before the House in the Autumn
    • Supporting the judicial review in 2005, and assisting with fundraising for the legal and associated fees