Labour lays bait to hook anglers

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Labour yesterday made a calculated attempt to woo the working-class male voter by launching its Anglers' Charter, designed to bolster support from Britain's most popular participatory sport.

Chris Smith MP, shadow heritage secretary, said the document - believed to be the first of its kind aimed by a mainstream political party at a specific sport - was intended to dispel any myths that Labour is opposed to angling. "The Charter for Anglers demonstrates our commitment to the sport. At the same time it reaffirms our long-standing aim of protecting the aquatic environment."

Mr Smith, accompanied by Tom Pendry, Labour's shadow Minister for Sport, and Elliot Morley, agriculture spokesman, said about 4 million people regularly went fishing and generated pounds 5bn a year for the tourism and leisure industries.

The charter addressed fears that Labour, which is opposed to fox-hunting and other game sports, may also be against angling - an impression that could cost it dear at the ballot box. Lack of a clear policy has been raised by opponents in recent election campaigns as proof it is implacably opposed to the sport.

Yesterday's charter is aimed at putting those fears to rest. "Although the Labour Party has had a long-standing support for all codes of angling - coarse, game and sea, perhaps this support has not always been expressed as clearly as it could have been."

Among the key proposals was a pledge by Labour to review the funding for the sport. A Labour government would order the Sports Council to examine the cash for angling, "giving greater consideration to the numbers who participate in the sport". One of the biggest issues for anglers, the lack of a national close season, would be addressed by Labour. It supports the National Rivers Authority plan to change by-laws and clarify regional anomalies.

Under Labour, British Waterways, the government agency responsible for canals, would remain in state hands, "to preserve the current access rights for all". Fly-fishing is not ignored - Labour said it would review the entire legislation for salmon management. And sea angling would be boosted by a "major renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy, strengthening national control over fisheries management".

, and closed areas would be introduced for fish breeding.