by Brian Dooley CATHOLIC MP John Battle revealed to the Catholic Herald this week he is set to embark on a campaign of "creative resistance" against. the poll tax, which could involve refusing to pay.
Mr Battle, the Labour MP for Leeds West, said he would support local people who refused to pay the tax in their efforts, and would join with them in refusing to pay the tax voluntarily if they asked him to. Mr Battle's stand against the poll tax follows last week's declaration by Jesuit head Michael Campbell-Johnson that politicians should side with the poor (Catholic Herald, October 14). "In the end, the government can get the money out of you by deducting it from your income but there's a lot of scope to resist this law", he said.
Mr Battle elaborated on his plans at a "Poll tax — no way!" meeting on Wednesday night, organised by the Independent Labour Party.
"There is a lot of space to fight this tax from the ground upwards", he said. Mr Battle spoke too at the meeting about the Housing Bill which is set to become an act within weeks. "This should also be resisted. The government can simply take over whole sections of cities from local authority control, and we're just not going to accept it. Tenants are going to refuse to co-operate with government officials", he said.
"Like with the poll tax, the law can be made to look an ass. There's still a long way to go before -they start taking the money for the poll tax — it was blasted through the House of Lords by wheeling in peers, despite the opposition in the House of Commons. It's unfair and it's certainly not a fait accompli that it will be enforced", he stressed.
Mr Battle was applauded for his stand by fellow Catholic MP Denis Canavan, the Labour MP for Falkirk West, who has already been fined £50 for refusing to register for the poll tax. The tax is due to be introduced in Scotland in 1989, a year before it is implemented in England and Wales.
"We've tried every means to stop it, but the only way to defeat it is if enough people like John Battle stand up and refuse to pay", he told the Catholic Herald.
Mr Canavan has refused to pay the fine he has received, and said the money will have to be taken from him against his will.
However, Mr Battle suggested that a firm undertaking not to pay the tax was not necessary at the stage. "What I don't think I should do as a public official is to encourage people to get into a situation where I'm all right but they're not", he said. He believes the bureaucracy involved in the bill will provide ample opportunity for resistance.
"There is a line in the bill at the moment, for instance, which concerns registering for payment of the tax. It says 'if no-one lives at this address, please fill in that no-one lives here'. It's ridiculous", he said.
John Battle's campaign has drawn criticism from other Labour MPs, however. Catholic Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, voiced his concern to the Catholic Herald.
"The only way to beat this poll tax is by a united campaign which must come from a decision taken by the Party at a national level. Without that large scale sort of action, people are not really in a position to take individual action", he said.