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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Elected police chiefs plan unveiled
The Tories want more local policing
American-style directly elected local sheriffs could decide how neighbourhoods are policed under a shake-up proposed by the Tories.

The aim is to give people a bigger say on policing on their local streets, with the home secretary stripped of powers to control police forces' priorities.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin announced the new policy at the Tories' annual conference in Blackpool as party officials tried to stamp on speculation that MPs were calling for a no confidence vote over Iain Duncan Smith's leadership.

I mean people active now who carry a certain political weight who are not using it in coordination with others for the success of the party
Douglas Hurd

There are rumours that around 12 MPs have written to the chairman of the 1922 committee, which represents Tory backbenchers, to ask for the vote.

Under party rules on leadership challenges, 25 Tory MPs must sign a petition before a vote is called.

Shadow deputy prime minister David Davis described the reports of a plot as "pretty implausible".

"There is a procedure if people want to use it. There is no sign of it being used. There is no sign of any appetite for this" he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

A close aide of the Tory leader said: "This is just froth and nonsense - bar talk."

No compassion?

The renewed leadership speculation comes shortly after former party leader William Hague warned critics of Iain Duncan Smith to "shut up" and support him.

But in a sign of battles continuing over the direction to take, ex-party chief executive Barry Legg urged his party to dump the language of compassion and to follow Labour's example in opposition by becoming more "relentless and destructive".

Mr Duncan Smith has repeatedly shrugged off hostile headlines to insist the party would win the next election, with the emphasis put on a raft of new policies offering a "fair deal" for people.

Bring back birching for young tearaways that terrorise council estates and vandalise graveyards, castrate paedophiles and bring back hanging
Tim Metcalfe

But the continued chatter about his position is frustrating party officials anxious to focus on the party's new policies, such as Mr Letwin's police plan.

In his speech, Mr Letwin said the Tories had to show they were on the side of the victims of crime on Britain's "hard pressed estates".

Under the policing plans chief constables would have to answer to directly elected sheriffs, mayors or police boards.

Mr Letwin said: "That means wherever you live, your chief constable will answer to someone you elected."


The Conservatives say the move would allow communities to decide, for example, to spend more money on fighting gun crime if that was a particular local problem.

The plans also involve setting up a new National Police Bureau as an umbrella organisation, reporting directly to the home secretary, and covering the National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence and liasing with MI5.

Governments cannot create happiness and if you pursue the agenda of compassion in government you are pursuing unlimited government
Barry Legg

The details of how the system would be organised for each area would be decided by local referendums and would depend on the council structure in each place.

Ruth Henig, the chairwoman of the Association of Police Authorities, feared the scheme would lose the good gender and racial mix seen on current police authorities.

Asylum quotas

He also used his speech to underline the Tory promise to recruit an extra 40,000 police officers over eight years - paid for by scrapping the government's current asylum system.

Instead, there would be a quota system, and asylum applicants would be processed at off-shore centres, "far away" from the UK, saving 1bn a year, said Mr Letwin.

But Margaret Lally, from the Refugee Council, called the asylum plans "inhumane" and doubted whether they would be "either lawful or workable".

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The policies are coming together"

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative leader
"Tony Blair doesn't give a damn what's going on, on our streets"

Hanging call overshadows Letwin
07 Oct 03  |  Politics

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