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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 14:38 GMT
Howard 'sorry' for poll tax
Michael Howard
Michael Howard made his apology on Sunday while in Scotland
Conservative leader Michael Howard has apologised again for his party's role in introducing the ill-fated poll tax.

He said sorry during his first visit to Scotland since becoming party leader.

The former Home Secretary also outlined his party's commitment to pulling out of the Common Fisheries Policy, claiming it had been a disaster.

SNP MP Alex Salmond had previously taunted Mr Howard over the poll tax, saying he should visit Scotland personally to apologise.

Mr Howard was local government minister in 1987 and 1988, and as such a driving force behind the imposition of the poll tax by the then Conservative government.

The tax was introduced in Scotland in 1989 and then south of the border a year later.

It led to a mass non-payment campaign in Scotland and riots in London before finally being abolished in 1993.

On Sunday, during a trip to Pittenweem Harbour, Fife, Mr Howard insisted he had apologised for the poll tax many times before.

It was a bold and brave experiment but it didn't work, it was a mistake, I've apologised for it before and I'm happy to do so again
Michael Howard
Tory leader
"Obviously the poll tax was a mistake and I have apologised for it," he said.

"It's ironic because it was brought in principally to deal with a problem of rating revaluation in Scotland.

"But clearly it didn't work.

"It was a bold and brave experiment but it didn't work, it was a mistake, I've apologised for it before and I'm happy to do so again."

In Pittenweem, where he met fishing industry leaders, Mr Howard was accompanied by David McLetchie, shadow Scottish secretary Peter Duncan and fisheries spokesman Owen Paterson.

Mr Howard said later: "We are committed to a policy of withdrawing from the Common Fisheries Policy and restoring national control for our fishing industry.

'Absolute disgrace'

"The CFP has been a disaster for the British fishing industry and we want to withdraw from it and establish national control - and that is what we will do."

And the Tory leader claimed Prime Minister Tony Blair had missed an opportunity by not using the draft European constitution as a means of tackling fishing.

Fishing
The Scottish fishing industry faces fresh tests over quotas
The SNP announced on Saturday it would campaign against the constitution, claiming the Government had failed to prevent the document from "entrenching" exclusive EU control over fishing.

Mr Howard said: "The European Union has put the Common Fisheries Policy on the agenda.

"It's part of the discussions for the constitution - they want to make it the subject of exclusive European competence.

"It's an absolute disgrace our Government has not taken advantage of that opportunity by raising these matters with the rest of the European Union.

"They should have done that and they haven't - and we will."

His talks with the fishermen's leaders were welcomed by Gary Masson, chairman of the recently-formed United Fishing Industry Alliance, who said later: "I welcome the fact that he is up here. He has told us what we want to hear - he is committed to taking the UK out of the CFP."


SEE ALSO:
Brussels stops short of cod ban
04 Dec 03  |  Europe
Rifkind brands poll tax 'a mistake'
01 Dec 03  |  Scotland
EU fisheries policy 'an outrage'
06 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature
North Sea cod reach new low
28 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature


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