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									lobby briefing
it’s question time


introduction
This briefing is intended to help those who would like to question election candidates on their
views on peace, security and human rights.

No doubt many conscience supporters already have quite a clear idea of who they will vote
for. Even if you have already decided how you will cast your vote we hope this briefing will be
useful as a guide to the kind of questions candidates should be asked before the election. Once
the election is over you can return to the same questions and make sure your MP adheres to
his/her answers and follows through with action. All too often candidates say one thing to please
the voters then ‘forget’ their convictions once safely in office.

What the parties think
We already know what the major political parties say about proposals for a peace tax system to
enable conscientious objectors not to pay for war and its preparation: very little. This is not an
issue political parties tend to have policy on, which means it is all the more important to question
individual candidates carefully.

You may be able to guess at a particular party’s approach to conscientious objection and peace
tax but not all MPs and candidates are in step with their party on this issue. Shadow Chancellor,
Oliver Letwin, recently featured in the national press for his support of conscience but this
most certainly does not mean that it is Conservative party policy. Similarly, the majority of
parliamentarians who support conscience are Labour Party representatives but this did not
stop Fraser Kemp, Labour’s deputy election co-ordinator, from dismissing the idea of peace tax
legislation (and by association 60 or so Labour MPs) as ‘cranky’.

Look in party manifestos or on party websites (see below) to find party policies on peace,
security, defence and human rights.

who are your candidates?
Before you can question election candidates it is necessary to find out who they are. There are
a number of ways you can do this. The major parties will mostly have declared their candidates
before the date of election is announced. You can find a list of the candidates in your local library.
You can also call the various party offices to ask who is standing in your constituency. Some
of the national media are likely to have ‘election specials’ on their websites with lists of party
candidates. Try the BBC (bbc.co.uk) and The Guardian (guardian.co.uk).




conscience THE PEACE TAX CAMPAIGN  w www.conscienceonline.org.uk
e lobby@conscienceonline.org.uk t 0870 777 3223 (national rate)
Archway Resource Centre, 1b Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ
major party contact details
Conservatives            020 7222 9000           conservatives.com
Green Party              020 7272 4474           greenparty.org.uk
Labour                   08705 900 200           labour.org.uk
Liberal Democrats        020 7222 7999           libdems.org.uk
Plaid Cymru              029 2064 6000           plaidcymru.org
Scottish National Party 0131 525 8900            snp.org
Scottish Socialist Party 0141 429 8200           scottishsocialistparty.org
Respect                  020 8980 3507           respectcoalition.org

Parliamentary support for conscience
conscience is supported by members of all of the major political parties.

Labour
Sixty Labour MPs, six MEPs and one MSP support conscience. The majority of our support comes from Labour
MPs but there is a wide range of opinions in the party. Be sure to question the candidates carefully!

Conservative
Only Oliver Letwin MP supports conscience in the Conservative Party, on ‘libertarian grounds’. Given his position
as Shadow Chancellor his support is significant and it may be worth mentioning this if speaking to a Conservative
candidate.

Liberal Democrats
Five Liberal Democrat MPs, one MEP and one MSP support conscience. As the party is promoting its anti-war and
liberal credentials there should be a good chance that candidates will be sympathetic to the aims of conscience.

Green
Both Green MEPs and all seven of the Green MSPs support conscience.

Plaid Cymru
All four Plaid Cymru MPs, one MEP and seven Welsh Assembly Members support conscience.

Scottish National Party
Two MPs, one MEP and 3 MSPs support conscience.

Scottish Socialist Party
Two SSP MSPs support conscience.

Respect
The only Respect MP supports conscience.

Fifteen conscience supporting MPs will not stand for re-election this general election. In order to regain and increase
this support for conscience in parliament it is essential that newly elected MPs are contacted by constituents.
MPs need to be informed about peace tax and conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes, and
encouraged to support conscience.

what to ask the candidates?
Questions at pre-election meetings can be very effective. Look out in your constituency for meetings in the lead
up to the election. Local libraries are likely to have notices of when and where meetings are taking place in your
constituency.

If you, or your local peace group would like to organise a pre-election meeting there is an excellent guide on how
to do so at churcheselection.org.uk (the information is Christian based but the guidelines are very useful for those
from all faiths and none). You need to register to use the site, but this only takes a minute. Details of the faith-based
election meetings being held around the country will be also be listed on this website.
Conscientious objection and taxation
1 I have no choice about paying taxes that will be used by the military and I believe this is a form of financial
  conscription. Under conscription I had the right to perform an alternative service that would not compromise
  my beliefs. Should the right to conscientious objection to military service, established in 1916, be extended to
  taxes for military purposes?

2 I am made complicit in the actions carried out by UK armed forces because I pay for the military with my taxes.
  Do you believe that to pay for somebody else to kill on your behalf makes one complicit in a crime - in the just
  the same way as committing the act yourself?

3 Do you believe that conscientious objection to military expenditure should be subject to a free vote if the issue
  arises in parliament? Do you agree that because this issue concerns deliberate killing it holds a special place like
  the death penalty and other issues of conscience?

4 Should exceptions be made in certain circumstances to allow people to live by their beliefs rather than follow
  the will of the majority? e.g. the right for Sikhs who wear turbans not to wear crash helmets (passed into law
  in 1976) or the right of conscientious objectors not to perform military service or to pay for killing via their
  taxes.

‘Defence’ spending and defence policy
1 Britain currently spends about £35 billion on the military. Just over 2% of this sum is spent on conflict prevention.
   In what ways do you think this situation should be changed?

2 What are your views on the level of funding the MoD receives compared to other departments, such as the
  Department for International Development? Should it be higher/lower?

3 Is there a better way to promote security than by further investment in weapons and the armed forces?
  Should more attention and investment be put into dealing with the causes of insecurity, such as poverty, and
  environmental degradation?

4 Over £760 million of taxpayers’ money is spent on supporting the arms trade in the UK. Is this an acceptable
  use of tax receipts? What are your views on state support for arms companies?

5 In line with the USA, UK armed forces are moving increasingly towards investment in hi-tech equipment and
  weapons systems whilst the number of personnel on the ground is decreasing. Is this the right direction?

Answers to look out for
You should not be able to pick and choose which taxes you pay. Nobody should get an opt-out.
There is no question of an ‘opt-out’. Conscientious objectors want to pay their tax - but with a clear conscience.
They will not pay less tax under our proposals; just the military part of all taxes will be directed to non-military
programmes.

It will open the floodgates to other groups demanding the right not to pay certain taxes.
Our case is based on human rights - the right to withhold physical service to the military, the right to refuse to
kill and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The idea that the rights of a minority could be
overridden by the wishes of a majority was rejected in 1916 when provision for conscientious objection was
included alongside conscription in the Military Service Act.

If everybody thought like you we would have no military forces at all.
Yes, that’s absolutely right! And no need for them either.

what should I do after the election?
                                             .
After the election you should contact your MP If you don’t know who your MP is call the House of Commons
switchboard on 020 7219 3000, ask at your local library or go to locata.co.uk/commons/ on the Internet and type
in your postcode.
Write to your MP to ask her/him to support conscience. (You can check if your MP already supports conscience
by looking at our website or calling the conscience office.) MPs, particularly just after an election, receive lots of
mail from organisations but letters from individual constituents stand out. It is far better for conscience members
to write individually to their MPs than for conscience to write as an organisation. Ensure your letter is personalised
and contains some reference to the constituency.

sample letter to your new MP

              Dear

              I am writing to ask you to join those MPs who support conscience THE PEACE TAX
              CAMPAIGN. 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.
              This would give meaningful recognition to conscientious objectors in an era when we
              are financially conscripted to pay for the military.

              In the UK the legal right to conscientious objection to military service was recognised by
              Parliament in both world wars and under the system of national service. The nature of
              warfare is different today and military preparations and war-fighting involve developing
              sophisticated weapons and training military personnel to use them. Conscription today
              is of taxes rather than people.

              I believe that those with a conscientious objection to war should not be forced to pay
              for military preparations through their taxes. This is a violation of their most fundamental
              beliefs in exactly the same way as actual military service would be. Conscientious
              objectors are forced to choose between disobeying their conscience or the law.

              conscience is seeking a change in the law to allow conscientious objectors to have
              the military part of their taxes - approximately 10% - spent on non-military security
              initiatives. The Ministry of Defence currently spends just 2.3% of its budget on conflict
              prevention. Monitoring human rights’ violations, restricting arms supplies, re-training
              military personnel and assisting refugees to return home are all effective, and cost-
              effective, methods of promoting security. These methods do not rely on threats of force
              and violence and could all be paid for with a clear conscience by those who object to
              war. In this way conscientious objectors could make their contribution to our security in
              accordance with their deeply held religious or moral beliefs.

              I am convinced that the objective of conscience is achievable and I urge you to support
              their campaign.

              I look forward to hearing from you.

              Yours




                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
                conscience lobbying briefing 2005-1
                April 2005, written by Oliver Haslam, Campaigns & Parliamentary Officer

                conscience Archway Resource Centre, 1b Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ
                t 0870 777 3223 (national rate) f 020 7281 6508
                w www.conscienceonline.org.uk e lobby@conscienceonline.org.uk

								
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