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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Lib Dems set out police strategy
Mark Oaten MP
Mark Oaten has pledged to set up a National Police Agency
The Liberal Democrats have ridiculed Michael Howard's "Alf Garnett approach" to crime as they unveiled their own proposals on law and order.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said the party would free up police forces to fight local crime by setting up a National Police Agency.

He also pledged to set up a National Border Force to tackle terrorism and drugs and immigration crime.

He said the proposals would make a "serious difference" to fighting crime.

The Lib Dems revealed their criminal justice blueprint on the same day as Conservative leader Mr Howard set out his own strategy.

Mr Howard said he would build more prisons, back zero tolerance policing and free police from political correctness.

'Hot air'

But Mr Oaten attacked the Tory plans, saying: "Michael Howard's Alf Garnett approach to criminal justice policy is more hot air than heavyweight thinking.

"Crime doubled during the last Conservative government.

"Mr Howard's plans to build more prisons will simply not tackle crime, and will only add to the number of people who re-offend and to the UK's already record prison numbers.

Key Lib Dem crime proposals
A National Police Agency to fight national and international crime
A National Border Force to tackle cross-border terrorism and drugs and immigration crime
Less strenuous duties for officers nearing retirement age to boost frontline officers
New "minimum policing guarantee" deal between chief constables and the local population
Reduce paperwork by using new technologies

"We need substance, not soundbites if we are to really tackle crime in this country."

To boost numbers of frontline officers, police who were retired or near-retirement would be offered less strenuous duties within police forces, so the force would also benefit from keeping their experience and knowledge.

The Lib Dems also proposed a new "minimum policing guarantee" to be struck between residents and chief constables, and moves to cut paperwork by using voice-recognition computer software.

And a Financial Crime Directorate would be established to detect and investigate complex financial crimes.

Lib Dem MP David Heath, the author of the proposals, 'A Force to be Reckoned With', said they would ensure "a visible, responsive and successful police force" across England and Wales.

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