[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2006, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
MPs out of touch on crime - Blair
Tony Blair
The prime minister was responding to criticism from the paper
The prime minister has accused some MPs of all parties of being out of touch with voters on law and order.

Tony Blair told the Observer he wanted to "harry, hassle and hound" criminals into giving up - or leaving Britain.

He added he would like to widen police powers to seize assets from suspected drug dealers, and to restrict people suspected of organised crime.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats said the ideas were "gimmicks" to cover up Labour's failure to control crime.

Mr Blair was responding to comments in an exchange of e-mails with an Observer columnist, accusing him of "steadily attacking our rights and freedoms".

He denied his policies on ID cards, anti-social behaviour or DNA storage by police were eroding civil rights.

He argued that new police powers were needed to tackle 21st Century crime.

His comments come as Professor Rod Morgan, the government's senior advisor on youth crime, said too many young people were being given anti-social behaviour orders and taken to court.

"You can't deal with the levels of sophistication in today's organised crime by traditional methods."

Tough talk is one thing - being effective is quite another
Nick Clegg, Lib Dems

He said "Dixon of Dock Green" policing no longer worked and was "leaving the innocent unprotected and the guilty unpunished".

Shadow home secretary David Davis told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme the public would be asking who was responsible for crime levels.

He said: "The prime minister, yet again, is putting out a whole series of headline-grabbing initiatives, one or two of which may be sensible.

"But the raw truth is the public will say who is responsible, who's been in charge, whose watch is it in which hard drug-taking has now crossed a million, in which violent crime appears to be out of control?"

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat shadow home affairs secretary, said: "No-one will disagree with making life difficult for organised criminals but the public is entitled to be sceptical. Some of his proposals smack of presentational gimmickry.

"Tony Blair has a track record of capturing headlines - with a failure to follow up. Tough talk is one thing - being effective is quite another."

Anti-social behaviour is not a big issue for the Westminster village. Out in the country, it is predominant
Tony Blair

In discussing anti-social behaviour, Mr Blair says the politics crossed traditional party lines.

"In British politics today many Tories, the Lib Dems and a part of Labour (but really only a small part) would agree with you.

"I truly believe they are out of touch with their own voters. Anti-social behaviour is not a big issue for the Westminster village. Out in the country, it is predominant."

'Liberty compromised'

The paper highlighted criticism from senior legal figures including Lord Steyn, a former Law Lord who recently accused the government of having authoritarian tendencies.

Mr Blair said this showed "how far out of touch much of the political and legal establishment is today with the reality of people's lives".

He also defended anti-social behaviour orders - his government's attempt to crack down on low-level crime and bad behaviour.

The paper said legislation on anti-social behaviour was one of the "15 or so bills which have incrementally removed or compromised our liberties".

But Mr Blair said the orders, known as Asbos, were helping people to "put some respect and decency back into their communities".

BBC political correspondent James Hardy said it was an "unashamed attempt" to seize the initiative on law and order in the run up to next month's local council elections.

Tony Blair's plans for tackling organised crime

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific