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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
Howard denies 'racist' policies
Michael Howard

Michael Howard has defended his immigration policy after an asylum seeker accused him of treating people like him as "dirt".

The Conservative leader was taking questions from members of the public on a special edition of Question Time

The questioner claimed Mr Howard "hated" asylum seekers.

Mr Howard said "I completely disagree with you" and added that his immigration policy was about "doing what was right for Britain".

He was also asked whether, under his proposals for a points system when assessing asylum claims, Mr Howard's own father - a Jewish immigrant - would have been allowed in.

I think it was possible to go to war and tell the truth, and I don't think Tony Blair did that
Michael Howard

He said he could not be sure whether his father would have met the necessary criteria to enter.

Mr Howard said "I want this country to continue to give sanctuary. But not to the people who pay the people traffickers.

"I want to give sanctuary to the mothers and the children who can't afford to pay the smugglers. I want a more humane system than we have today".

The Tory leader also denied the suggestion from another audience member that his party was conducting an unnecessarily negative campaign, particularly in describing the prime minister as a liar.

Iraq war

He said: " At this election, the choice will be between parties with different programmes, and what you have to take into account is not only what those programmes are but whether they are likely to deliver on them."

He defended his use of the term "liar", saying "I'm afraid I tell it like it is".

Mr Howard also said he would have gone to war in Iraq, even if he had known at the time what is now known about the situation in the country, including the absence of WMD.

Mr Howard said Saddam Hussein's regime was in breach of a number of UN resolutions which would have made the war legitimate even without the weapons.

But he added: "I think it was possible to go to war and tell the truth, and I don't think Tony Blair did that. And I think it was possible to go to war and have a plan."