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Maggie ignored ministers' doubts over hated poll tax; THATCHER ARCHIVES SHE'S NOT FOR TURNING Walker, Ridley and even Lawson tried to warn the PM of the dangers ahead POLL TAX ALL SMILES Thatcher with freed ANC leader Nelson Mandela in July 1990. Picture: Gerry Penny/ AFP/Getty.


MARGARET Thatcher's poll tax reforms alarmed her ministers so much that one warned it could lead to people sleeping on the streets to avoid having to pay.

Newly-released government papers show the former prime minister dismissed concerns that replacing domestic rates based on property values with the flat-rate community charge would be a political disaster.

The introduction of the poll tax, to widespread protests in Scotland from 1989 and a year later in England and Wales, was a key element in her downfall from No10 in 1990.

She believed the new system would deter highspending Labour councils from putting up local taxes.

But Welsh secretary Peter Walker warned a proposal to exempt rough sleepers would cause problems.

He wrote: "It would act as an incentive to people to sleep rough simply to make sure that they escaped having to pay at least 20 per cent of the charge.

"An exemption could be seen as encouraging them to sleep on the street rather than in a hostel."

Environment secretary Nicholas Ridley, who was responsible for steering the legislation through parliament, was also unhappy. He approached Thatcher in July 1987 to express his concern over the level of opposition he was facing from councils over plans to phase in the poll tax.

In the government documents, released by the National Archives at Kew, a No10 official noted: "He showed inclination to want to rethink major aspects of the community charge.

"The Prime Minister discouraged this firmly."

Chancellor Nigel Lawson, an early opponent of the poll tax, warned her against failing to introduce it slowly, which is what eventually happened.

He said: "People, not councils, have votes. More people will pay. There will be more losers than gainers.

"Such changes must be introduced gradually and carefully if we are to avoid major problems."

Friend of an evil regime APARTHEID BRITAIN'S opposition to economic sanctions against South Africa during the 1980s put it in danger of being seen as a "friend of apartheid", Thatcher was warned.

In a letter to her adviser Charles Powell, foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe's private secretary Colin Budd wrote: "Many Commonwealth leaders now see us as the main defender of the South African government and of apartheid."

Thatcher eventually met freed ANC leader Nelson Mandela in 1990.

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 19, 2016
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