Lobbying for Peace Tax Legislation

Workshop 6

1st Session 

During the 1st Session various members of the group reported on the current situation in their own country.

Hans Horeman (Netherlands) - The Dutch campaign had suffered a loss of members and a fall in the level of its activity after the collapse of the Berlin Wall however, activity has begun to increase recently. Religious bodies had been very helpful in getting the campaign as far as writing a Bill and many of them had endorsed it. Problems had arisen over getting sufficient respect for the Bill for Parliament to discuss it.

Christa Voigt (Germany) - Gunther Lott is continuing his work as the main lobbyist. One SPD MP is helping with providing facilities in Bonn whilst another, from the East, has introduced the issue to 8 members of the left-wing faction of the SPD. A Bill is now before a Parliamentary Committee. There has been no change in the position of the campaign since the Berlin Wall came down - Communism has gone but new problems have arisen.

Franco Perna (Luxembourg, but talking about Italy) - A Bill had been introduced to Parliament by about 80 MPs but it fell due to the national elections. This Bill is about to be re-introduced. The Peace Tax issue receives strong support from Catholic priests, nuns, institutions and some bishops.

Patxi Legasa Gorriz (Spain) - There are 2,000 WTRs in Spain but so far no work has been done on writing a Bill or lobbying Parliament - it is hoped that work on this will begin soon.

Malcolm Reid (UK) - Peace Tax currently has the support of 87 of the 651 MPs, the highest level of support ever achieved. The supporting MPs are from the Labour, Welsh Nationalist and Scottish Nationalist parties. The campaign has considered launching two new projects. Firstly, a programme to encourage people who would make use of Peace Tax legislation to sign a declaration to that effect. Secondly, a research project into public attitudes to taxes and war. Brenda Boughton added that she felt the main problem is that MPs are very possessive about their right to decide how taxes are spent.

Dirk Panhuis (Belgium) - A Bill was introduced to the last Parliament and is being re-introduced to the current one. The Bill has the support of one Flemish Nationalist MP and the MPs of the Flemish and Walloon Green Parties.

Marya Nyland (Canada) - The New Democratic Party MPs support legislation on Peace Tax. The campaign has produced a promotional video financed by $9,000 from the Governments cultural department. They are also cosponsoring a conference of Canadian peace groups.

2nd Session

During the 2nd Session for more detailed reports were given on the current situation in the USA and the Netherlands. Towards the end some problems were briefly considered and a number of decisions were made.

Marian Franz (USA) - A Congressional Hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill took place this year. One Congressman said, History and morality are on your side. The general mood was that politicians would not revoke the legislation if it existed; supporting its introduction in the first place is the difficult thing.

The record of the proceedings is permanent and so politicians can no longer say that they know nothing of the Peace Tax issue. The hearing also means that the Bill can be attached as a ‘rider’ (a type of amendment) to another Bill on taxation - although this also presents the danger that the details of the Peace Tax Fund could be changed at the last moment.

Conscience is contagious and this is our strength -it can't be argued away by politicians.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has helped campaigning in the US because money is now needed for economic conversion from production for military uses to production for civil uses.

Kees Nieuwerth (Netherlands) - There is a desire to organise a hearing on the Peace Tax Bill in Parliament. Pressure can be brought to bear because the Christian Democrats, the main Government Party, are very sensitive to the views of church groups.

A Council of Churches committee has produced a unanimous report calling for the Council to support Peace Tax legislation. The aim is to slowly grind away until the Christian Democrats will support legislation. 

At this stage people raised a number issues and problems which they felt needed a considered response from Peace Tax lobbyists.

Dirk Panhuis (Belgium) - How do we object to troops being used in UN Peace Keeping work?

David Basset (USA) - Is there any type of ‘new soldier’ that we could approve of?

Malcolm Reid (UK) - Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary General, has recently produced a document called Agenda for Peace. This includes a proposal for an International Peace Endowment Fund to be financed from the Peace Dividend. Should we respond to this and if so how?

Hans Horeman (Netherlands) - We ought to exchange our thoughts on what conscience means for us and how we explain this to people.

Phil Rimmer (UK) - We must always remember that although politicians can't argue away conscience, many are very good at choosing to ignore it. How do we overcome this?

During the 2nd Session the group agreed on three decisions to take to the closing plenary session of the conference.

Decision 1

National campaigns are urged to write to the US legislators requesting a copy of the report of the Congressional Hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill, of 21st May 1992, expressing appreciation and explaining the work in our own countries.

Decision 2

National campaigns are urged to exchange their thoughts on what conscience means for us and how we explain this to people.

Decision 3

We recommend that this conference appoint a small committee, of at least four or five people, to examine the possibilities of us forming an international organisation able to present the Peace Tax case to selected international bodies and to eventually achieve Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) status.

The committee would not necessarily hold meetings but would communicate by telephone and fax. It would report to the next International Conference of War Tax Resisters and Peace tax Campaigns. The committee members should be experienced Peace Tax campaigners. They are also asked to work out a logo.

Note - Decision 3 was approved by the final plenary of the conference and the following people were appointed to the International Committee of the International Conference of War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigners: Marian Franz (USA), Kees Nieuwerth (Netherlands), Dirk Panhuis (Belgium), Phil Rimmer (UK), Christa Voigt (Germany).

Phil Rimmer