Fourth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 1992

Peace Tax Legislation in Various Countries

Workshop 1

State of affairs, comparison prospects...

Chairperson: Kees Nieuwerth

Resource persons: Phil Rimmer, Malcolm Reid

This workshop was divided into two sessions; me first was concerned with sharing the experiences of campaigning for peace tax legislation the second sought ideas on how to proceed. This process made us aware of the differences between our political cultures, but at the same time showed us the common approaches in our campaigning, and areas which could be worked on together.

Conscience - the Peace Tax Campaign (UK)

The paths to get legislation into Parliament at the moment are through a Ten Minute Rule Bill or a Private Members Bill. In 1988, The Peace Tax Bill was discussed as a Ten Minute Rule Bill, but this was primarily an airing of the concern and was not acted on. Every session, there is a lottery to see which MP gets the chance to introduce a Bill. As soon as the names are known many pressure groups lobby the MPs in an attempt to get their legislation taken up. An MP will not propose a Bill unless it has a real chance of being passed. The PTC feels it needs the support of at least 200 MPs before this is likely; at present it has. 87, the highest ever number. The recruitment of MPs is done in two steps: firstly an MP is approached by a constituent, to whom the MP has to respond; any positive response is followed up by the staff of the campaign. Most of the supporting MPs are Labour, but some are from the nationalist parties.

Conscience Canada

A Private Members Bill is also the main path for Canadian peace tax legislation. This system is similar to that of the UK, but Canada has supporting MP, Ray Funk. He has not yet been drawn to present a Bill. Apart from the lobbying of individual MPs, Conscience Canada also targets parliamentary committees in order to gain a hearing. There are several sympathetic parliamentarians, particularly amongst the New Democrats.

Spain

At present, Spain has no peace tax legislation prepared, although the WTRs have the support of the Communist party in parliament, which accounts for 107 of the representatives. It was explained that the Spanish parliament lags behind public opinion and so would not be likely to act until support for the legislation was overwhelming,

Peace Tax Network (Germany)

Peace tax legislation has the support of the Greens in the German parliament. Bill was introduced in the 1980s, but was not really discussed as it was just before an election they nave produced a new draft of the Bill which contains substantial changes. It proposes the establishment of a defence budget, separate to the rest of government income, which would receive money only from direct taxes. In this way, full conscientious objection would be possible, as there would be no defence funding out of unavoidable indirect taxes, such as VAT. This would make it easier for people to withhold the defence part of their taxes, and would make the situation clearer for the public to understand.

Italy

The campaign has been successful but is now losing strength, partly due to confusion in the political system. The Northern League, which aims to divide Italy, has had a campaign of non-payment of taxes, which has reflected negatively on WTRs and the peace tax movement. Also, there is now competition between two bills in parliament, one introduced by the Greens and another by the PDS, the former Communist Party. There is already a precedent in the tax system, in that income tax forms already allow people to choose whether they give a certain proportion of their taxes to the Church or all of it to the state.

United States of America

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund

Marion Franz told us of her work around the recent Congressional Hearing. The emphasis was on conscience, rather than on military spending, as this made it a constitutional issue and many of the testifiers were representatives of religious organisations. This added respectability to the cause, - and support for the principle came from some surprisingly conservative people.

Proposals

  1. This workshop feels that it is important for the various national campaigns to keep in close contact informing each other of any new developments. The success of one country adds weight to the efforts of other campaigns, and creates precedents. We ask that a list of organisations be made available for this purpose.
  2. We know that a draft bill has been circulated in Australia, but that its supporter in parliament has retired. Malcolm Reid will try and make further contact with the Australian campaign.
  3. In order to develop these international links, we propose that a small international committee be established. This group would investigate the possibility of gaining Non-Governmental Organisation status, in order to direct campaigns at international for a, such as the United Nations and the European Community.
  4. We hope to help the Spanish movement towards formulating a legislative proposal.