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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 18:16 GMT
Ministers highlight 'social responsibility'
Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw wants attitudes to crime to change
A new sense of "social responsibility" to counter the rise in violent crime and materialism is needed, according to two senior cabinet ministers.

Home Secretary Jack Straw and Education Secretary David Blunkett spoke following the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, which Mr Straw said should be a wake-up call for British society.

Violent crime doesn't exist in a vacuum

Jack Straw
Speaking at a conference of the left-leaning Institute of Public Policy Research in London, Mr Straw said clamping down on street violence will be a key task of the next Labour government, should there be one.

While his cabinet colleague, Mr Blunkett, criticised the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, with its emphasis on material wealth.

Violent crime rising

Statistics show that while property crime has fallen since 1997, violent crime rates have soared.

Highlighting rising street crime linked to late-night drinking as a sign that British society was tolerating irresponsible behaviour, Mr Straw repeated the government's commitment to fixed penalties for anti-social behaviour.

And Mr Straw promised the government would give police the necessary resources to tackle the problem.

But he said the "sense of social responsibility" of individuals was ultimately responsible for controlling behaviour.

Straw's new law pledge

He pledged new laws to regulate bouncers, investment in town centre surveillance cameras and new powers for police to shut down rowdy pubs and clubs.

He also urged friends, acquaintances and relatives of those involved in violence to take action on the issue.

Damilola Taylor
Mr Blunkett criticised passers-by who failed to stop to help Damilola
"People do have a responsibility to report crimes," he said.

The home secretary continued saying: "Violent crime, like drunk-driving doesn't exist in a vacuum. It breeds on indifference, on collusion and encouragement from the sidelines."

Backing Mr Straw's comments, David Blunkett criticised passers-by who failed to stop and help Damilola as he lay bleeding after being stabbed by older youths in Peckham, south London, on Monday.

He said: "We have got to create a society where people do not run away from anything, but face up to it and are prepared to be engaged and involved."

Rights and responsibilities

Young men, he said, "must understand that there is something more than getting absolutely out of your mind on a Saturday night".

Mr Blunkett said young people should be taught the rights they enjoy imply responsibilities towards society, adding that parents play a key role in developing responsible attitudes.

He also criticised the TV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which he said helped perpetuate the idea that only material wealth mattered.

Education Secretary David Blunkett
David Blunkett wants a society where people are prepared to be 'engaged and involved'
He said: "In the eighties, yuppyism was seen as being the end of civilisation. We are back to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? now.

"The people who produce programmes have a pretty low view of the rest of the world, except when it comes to their own families."

A spokeswoman for the show's production company Celador, said she was "baffled" by Mr Blunkett's words.

Commenting on the home secretary's speech, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Simon Hughes said:

"The public frequently receives a less than satisfactory response to non-emergency calls from our overstretched police.

"The government is responsible for providing adequate public services to respond to crime and protect the public."

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | Talking Point
How can we win the fight against crime?
18 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Big rise in violent crime
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair backs down on fining 'louts'
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