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Hebden Bridge woman refuses to pay taxes for war.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

As we remember the start of the Iraq war 10 years ago this month, it may be a good time to report that local resistance to the UK military machine continues.

Peggy Thomas, a retired teacher who lives in Hebden Bridge, is refusing to pay the Inland Revenue some of her income tax. She is a conscientious objector and against taxes being used for warfare.

Conscientious objection was established as a right during the two world wars of the 20th century. It wasn't an easy option and often meant prison.

Peggy Thomas

Peggy told the Hebweb that the nature of conscientious objection had completely changed. Today, it is not about young people refusing to fight; it is about money. Today's wars can be fought with just a few men but the weapons are much far more expensive and deadly. That's why she's withholding a proportion of her tax, a proportion which would otherwise be spent on war and weapons.

She said that we take it for granted that civilians will be killed. Nobody flies a drone so nobody has to think about two year olds and grandparents dying in the wreckage.

Peggy told the HebWeb, "At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, the then Chancellor Gordon Brown, told the House of Commons not to worry about how our participation in the 'coalition of the willing' would be financed. He assured MPs and the country that all the money needed would be available. Of course it was; 10% of the Government budget is set aside for warfare."


Peggy is not alone in withholding taxes. An organisation called "Conscience" is campaigning to end compulsory contributions to warfare. Conscience believes that those who object in principle to warfare should be able to divert 10% of their taxes to peaceful pursuits. For example, some people donate their 10% withheld tax to charities such as Oxfam.

Peggy and the Conscience movement are not arguing that people should be able to choose what they want their taxes to be spent on, which would clearly be unworkable. The goal is to restore the right of conscientious objection.

When Peggy first started withholding her tax, the Inland Revenue ignored her, and just took the tax she owed out of any refund she was due. If she sent a letter explaining, they'd reply that they couldn't enter into correspondence about the matter.

But this year the Inland Revenue started to get a little more serious with Peggy and started to talk about debt collection agencies. Conscience were able to reassure Peggy that in the first instance the debt collection agency would not be allowed to take anything from her. And that what she should do is write to the debt collection agency explaining the situation.

In her letter, Peggy wrote, "The right of conscientious objection, which was won, not without a struggle, during the First World war, protected people who did not want to kill other people from having to take part in warfare. Once conscription was abolished, this right was taken from us. Now our money is conscripted and used to finance killing."

Her letter continues, "As a nation, we spend about 10% of our revenue on warfare, so we who object to fighting wars on moral grounds withhold 10% of our taxes."

"As reported by the Independent on 11th May, 2004, Hanan Matrud was shot dead in a village in Southern Iraq on 21st August 2003. She was eight years old and was playing with friends at the time. The right to play is recognised as a human right of the child by the United Nations. "

"It is to be hoped that the over-wrought British soldier who shot Hanan received good psychiatric care when he arrived back in the UK. We now know that more American soldiers died in suicide after the end of hostilities in Vietnam than were killed in action. There is no reason to imagine that British soldiers returning from Iraq and other war zones fare much better."

See also:

Conscience: taxes for peace not war: "We campaign for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war. We also campaign for the legal right of those with a conscientious objection to war to have the entire military part of their taxes spent on peacebuilding."