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EDITIONS
Blair years Monday, 6 May, 2002, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Labour's 1997 pledges: Home affairs
The following page details Labour's activity in government on home affairs, based on what it committed itself to in the manifesto. Some pledges have been omitted for the sake of brevity. No judgement has been made to the inherent value of the pledge, but important criticisms are included where applicable.

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WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will relieve the police of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens to get more officers back on the beat."
CONCLUSION: ON COURSE
The Police Reform Bill (currently going through Parliament) contains provisions to increase the powers of case managers, detention staff and scene of crime officers, so as to give regular police officers more opportunity to be seen on the beat. The government has heralded the legislation as one of the most important changes to British policing in years.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
But the proposals are not without controversy. The government wants to introduce "community support officers" who will have some powers in matters such as crowd control, truancy and minor offences such as littering. Police oppose this proposal saying that it erodes their powers and confuses the situation by creating a level of policing without actually using police. The House of Lords has inflicted a series of defeats on the government over the Bill, but ministers insist that these will be reversed in the Commons.

WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Labour will decentralise the CPS, with local crown prosecutors co-operating more effectively with local police forces."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
In 1999 the CPS was split up into 42 regions to match police constabularies. Further changes are in the pipeline such as placing some CPS lawyers in the same buildings as police officers.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will halve the time it takes to get persistent young offenders from arrest to sentencing"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
This was one of Labour's five key manifesto pledges which appeared on special cards given out during the 1997 general election. In 1996, dealing with a persistent young offender took an average of 142 days. In June 2001, this had been cut to 69 days, two days below the Government's target of 71.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will replace widespread repeat cautions [for young offenders] with a single final warning"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act replaced the existing system of cautioning with the new "final warning". For a first offence, young offenders can expect either a reprimand, a final warning or criminal charges depending on the seriousness of the offence. Following one reprimand, any further offence will lead to a warning or a charge. Any further offending will normally result in a charge. Police can still give a second warning where the latest offence is less serious than a previous one and more than two years have passed since the first warning.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will bring together Youth Offender Teams in every area"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 placed new duties on local authorities with education and social services responsibilities, chief officers of police, police authorities, probation committees and health authorities in England and Wales to establish youth offending teams. These bodies are now expected to ensure that there is an appropriate youth justice system in their area which aims to match offending with the appropriate solution, for instance tackling social problems in the home.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will streamline the system of youth courts to make it far more effective."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The government is implementing "referral orders" nationwide. When a young offender pleads guilty in court, they are referred to a special panel drawn from the local community. This panel examines the causes of the offending and is charged with drawing up a plan to tackle it. This can involve a contract of sorts between the panel, the offender and parents.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Seek to ensure that prison regimes are constructive and require inmates to face up to their offending behaviour."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Although the weekly average number of hours of purposeful activity per prisoner has remained constant at 23.8, the number of hours of education rose between 1997 and 2001. The Home Office instructed prisons to have a greater focus on literacy and numeracy in the hope of breaking the cycle of offending. The number of prisoners completing offending behaviour programmes has risen substantially since 1997,
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
In 2000-01 the Prison Service failed to meet half of its own targets including those for purposeful activity, literacy and numeracy. The number of offenders completing sex offender treatment programme falls short of the targets.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will implement an effective sentencing system for all the main offences to ensure greater consistency and stricter punishment for serious repeat offenders."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
The 2001 Criminal Justice Bill included a promise to "provide a vehicle for legislation to implement parts of the sentencing review". These changes were to draw on the conclusions of the Halliday Report on sentencing, but the legislation has yet to be proposed. The government, however, has recently taken delivery of a major report into the future of the criminal court system. This has recommended a radical overhaul of the system including the introduction of an intermediate tier of courts aimed at speeding up the process and ensuring more consistency.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Child protection orders will deal with young children suffering neglect by parents because they are left out on their own far too late at night."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Local child curfew orders were first introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to keep children under 10 off the streets at night. In August 2001 the government announced curfew orders would be extended to children aged up to 15.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
While the government can claim that it has met the pledge by passing the law, there has been little take up of the orders. For more than a year after they were first introduced, no local authority, charged with dealing with the problem, sought a curfew order. Their reluctance to use the law was based on a belief that they would prove unenforceable. Ministers have moved to reform the scheme, saying that it should be just one weapon against youth offending. Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, which can lead to punishment of parents, have proved more popular among local authorities.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"New parental responsibility orders will make parents face up to their responsibility for their children's misbehaviour."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, councils can apply for parenting orders to be imposed if a child has committed a criminal offence or has been truanting or has been seriously anti-social on the streets.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Community safety orders will deal with threatening and disruptive criminal neighbours."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Now called Anti-social behaviour orders, these were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. 466 orders have been imposed since went on-stream in April 1999, costing an average 5,360.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"There will be legislation to allow individual MPs a free vote for a complete ban on handguns."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Firearms (Amendment)(No.2) Act 1997 received Royal Assent in November 1997, after a free vote. As then Home Secretary, Jack Straw said at the time, "I strongly commend the Bill's proposals to the House, but I want to make it crystal clear that - as in opposition - it will be a matter for my hon Friends' individual consciences to decide whether to support or oppose the measure tonight."
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will tackle the unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour and crime on our streets. Our 'zero tolerance' approach will ensure that petty criminality among young offenders is seriously addressed."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
Although the Government have introduced various initiatives (see above), street crime has continued to rise and has become something of a political hot potato. London has suffered some of the worst problems with robberies rising from 36,317 to 47,636 in the 11 months to the end of February 2002. In April the prime minister pledged to halt the rise of street crime in London within five months.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will create a new offence of racial harassment and a new crime of racially motivated violence to protect ethnic minorities from intimidation."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Legislation covering this issue became law as part of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Labour will appoint an anti-drugs supremo to co-ordinate our battle against drugs across all government departments."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The former chief constable of West Yorkshire, Keith Hellawell, became the first anti-drugs co-ordinator - dubbed the "drugs czar" - in 1998. Mr Hellawell was charged with knocking together Whitehall heads to make sure that drugs policy across government was co-ordinated.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
However, three years into his strategy, he left the post in August 2001 after being effectively sidelined by the new Home Secretary David Blunkett. Mr Blunkett took responsibility for drugs policy and appointed a minister to oversee policy.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will ensure that victims are kept fully informed of the progress of their case, and why charges may have been downgraded or dropped."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
The Victims' Charter, which sets out what victims can expect in the handling of their cases, has not been revised since 1996. In February 2001, the Home Office issued a consultation on a possible update of the document, but no further action has been taken.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Greater protection will be provided for victims in rape and serious sexual offence trials and for those subject to intimidation, including witnesses."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced a range of measures to protect witnesses. These include a ban on cross-examination of rape victims by the defendant in person; measures such as recorded pre-trial cross-examination to help child witnesses; use of screens, live TV links and video recorded interviews of witnesses.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will place a new responsibility on local authorities to develop statutory partnerships to help prevent crime. Local councils will then be required to set targets for the reduction of crime and disorder in their area."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Sections 5-7 and 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 place a joint obligation on Local Authorities and the Police for the formulation of Crime Reduction Strategies.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will pilot the use of compulsory drug testing and treatment orders for offenders to ensure that the link between drug addiction and crime is broken."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The provisions in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill currently before Parliament will build upon drug testing already being carried out through the Drug Treatment and Testing Order and drug testing in prison. The Bill provides for the compulsory drug testing of offenders and alleged offenders at various points in the criminal justice system.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"[We will bring] remand delays down to the national targets"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
This pledge aimed to find the money needed to fund the compulsory drug treatment orders for offenders. Legislation in 1998 created a framework for new time limits which were eventually set in 2001 after consultation. But, the remand time limits only apply to young offenders.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will attack the drug problem in prisons. In addition to random drug testing of all prisoners we will aim for a voluntary testing unit in every prison for prisoners ready to prove they are drug-free."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
In 1998 the government allocated 76m to dealing with drugs in prisons. This included 17m for voluntary testing units. Since then, some 55,000 prisoners have taken part or continue to take part in the scheme.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will by statute incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law to bring these rights home and allow our people access to them in their national courts"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Human Rights Act gained Royal Assent on 9 November 1998.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will ensure swift and fair decisions on whether [an asylum seeker] can stay or go"
CONCLUSION: DEBATABLE
The 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act was introduced with the aim of making the system faster, firmer and fairer. A year later it was mired in chaos and controversy with accusations that it could not cope with the scale of the task. The backlog of claims is finally being reduced, decisions being made more quickly but doubts remain about fairness.

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