Records of the Peace Tax Campaign

Scope and Content

This archive consists mainly of correspondence, within the Campaign, with supporters, Members of Parliament, and European and other external bodies. There are also minutes, circulars, and other promotional material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Peace Tax Campaign was started in 1977 by Stanley Keeble, a Cornish Quaker. The objective of the campaign was to establish the legal right to conscientious objection to military taxation, as a parallel to the established legal right to conscientious objection to military service. The suggestion was that the proportion of tax that would be used for military purposes should instead be used for peacemaking.

Keeble aired the idea with his contacts in peace organisations and in October 1977 sent out a leaflet announcing the Peace Tax Campaign. Originally conceived as a campaign of the Peace Pledge Union, it was soon established as a separate body. The campaign began with letters, lectures and meetings to raise awareness of its aims. Peace and religious groups, as well as concerned individuals, were encouraged to lobby their MPs to support a change in the law. In August 1981 a letter to the Guardian signed by parliamentary and religious representatives publicised the campaign and resulted in many new declarations of support. By 1983 there were over 3,000 supporters and over 50 local co-ordinators.

Gerald Drewett became campaign chairman in 1980, and Margaret and Stanley Moore were appointed as joint secretaries shortly after. Stanley Keeble continued to edit the campaign newsletter until 1982 and, though he stepped down from the committee in 1985, he remained actively involved with the campaign until his death in 1996.

In 1981 Alex Lyon MP put an amendment to the Finance Bill to allow those with a “conscientious objection to paying for expenditure on defence” to pay the military part of their taxes to the then Ministry of Overseas Development. This, though unsuccessful, was the first of many attempts to enable such legislation. An Early Day Motion in 1982 to establish a Peace Fund to receive taxes diverted from military uses was supported by 31 MPs.

Associated with the campaign were tax resistance and tax diversion, individuals challenging the law by withholding the military part of the tax or endeavouring to pay it into a specific government department, such as the Ministry of Overseas Development. This often resulted in legal action from the Internal Revenue, leading to resisters having their goods distrained by bailiffs to pay off the tax, or even (as in the case of Arthur Windsor) serving prison sentences. Martin Howard ran a separate network with its own newsletter, Tax Direction Now, which “co-ordinated and cared for” tax diverters.

An International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns was held in Germany in 1986, the first of many worldwide, two of them in the U.K. The Peace Tax Campaign has twice changed its name: in 1990 the organisation was renamed conscience The Peace Tax Campaign, and in 2009 conscience Taxes For Peace Not War. It still campaigns for “the legal right for those with a conscientious objection to war to have the military part of their taxes spent on peacebuilding initiatives”.


The original system of arrangement has been retained where this can be ascertained.

Access Information

Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation. This archive contains personal data on individuals throughout, and access is therefore restricted under the Act. More detailed cataloguing may make it possible to refine this restriction. Researchers should contact the Special Collections Librarian for information about the status of the material they wish to view.

Acquisition Information

Received by Commonweal between 1990 and 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished boxlist.

Archivist's Note

Described by Alison Cullingford and John Brooker.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

There is evidence that some weeding was carried out prior to or soon after the donation. More detailed cataloguing may reveal further material of low archival relevance.


Keeble, Stanley. To reject war a human right: a submission to the Council of Europe by the Peace Tax Campaign. Truro: Peace Tax Campaign, 1983.

Peace Tax Campaign of the Peace Pledge Union. Would you rather pay taxes for war or for peace making? Peace Pledge Union, [1977].

Corporate Names