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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Full text: Howard on law and order

Here is the full text of Michael Howard's speech on law and order, delivered in Middlesbrough on 10 August, 2004.

"I am delighted to be here in Middlesbrough with Ray Mallon this morning.

Ray has proved that if you want to cut crime, you can cut crime.

He has shown that with decisive action and clear direction you can begin the process of urban renewal.

And he has demonstrated that when local communities pull together they can start to improve everyone's quality of life.

Rising Crime - this is the reality of Britain today.

Parents are afraid to let their children walk to school.

Women fear intimidation from hooded youths as they walk home at night.

And couples stay in rather than run the gauntlet of the binge drinkers who have taken over many of our towns and city centres.

Crime undermines the quality of all our lives - and as with most failings in society it is the poorest who suffer the most.

People living in deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be mugged as those living in better off neighbourhoods.

Rising crime has left people across Britain feeling powerless and insecure.

And in many places they worry that the police have become powerless too - remote and distant, unable to deal with the issues that concern their neighbourhoods the most.

Criminologists and commentators frequently try to down play the problem by saying that the fear of crime is actually greater than crime itself.

They appear blind to the fact that disorder and violence have became a fact of daily life in many communities across Britain.

Government ministers cite the British Crime Survey as evidence that there has been a steady decline in crime over the last nine years.

But the BCS excludes lots of crimes from its calculations - such as murder, crimes against children under 16, sexual offences, dealing and taking drugs and shoplifting.

It is estimated that around 12 million crimes a year don't even make it onto the BCS radar.

The most reliable crime statistics - those crimes actually recorded by the police - show that crime in England and Wales has risen by almost 850,000 in the last five years.

While burglary and car crime have fallen: gun crime has doubled; robbery has gone up by more than half; and, most damning of all, violent crime has increased by 83%.

Last year it hit the one million mark for the first time ever.

That is 3,000 violent crimes every day - and more than a hundred violent crimes every hour.

There are many factors which have contributed to the breakdown of law and order in Britain today.

In many ways the police, our courts and the prison service are simply picking up the pieces of other people's failures.

As a society we are in danger of being overrun by values which eat away at people's respect for themselves, each other, their homes and their neighbourhood.

Most damaging of all has been the dramatic decline in personal responsibility.

Many people now believe that they are no longer wholly responsible for their actions.

It's someone else's, or something else's fault - the environment, society, the Government.

Remember the lines from West Side Story, when the gang of hoods try to excuse their actions: "I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived" says one.

"Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease" says another.

West Side Story may have been written by an American at the tail end of the 1950s, but these attitudes are all too prevalent in British society today.

These excuses shift the balance away from the yob, the shoplifter, the joy-rider, the mugger, any criminal, on to someone or something else.

What more harmful message could we send than to say: "It's not your fault, it is society's fault"? And while responsibility has declined, rights have proliferated.

"I've got my rights" is the verbal equivalent of two-fingers to authority.

There is now a palpable sense of outrage that "so-called" human rights have tipped the balance of justice in favour of the criminal and the wrong-doer - rather than the victim and the law abider.

The decline of responsibility and the proliferation of rights have left us in an ethical quagmire, which is undermining our fight against crime.

The clear distinction between right and wrong has been lost in sociological mumbo-jumbo and politically correct nonsense.

Just consider that phrase "anti-social behaviour" which we hear so often today.

Eighteen year olds out after a night's drinking, overturning litter bins, pushing each other around, intimidating others - in my language, that behaviour is not just anti-social - it's wrong.

That's right: it's wrong.

And people shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Decent, hard working people understand this.

But they also understand that while politicians and the police must take the lead in tackling crime and disorder, families and communities have a part to play too.

They know that there is a right path for our society - one based on personal responsibility, moderation, truthfulness, honesty, and liberty under the law.

Ask these people what they think is at the root of many of the problems we face in society today, and they will say obvious things.

The things many politicians have been too frightened to say for far too long.

Why do some parents allow their children out until the early hours?

How does it help parents instil discipline if they are told that they cannot smack their children?

Why can't teachers discipline disruptive pupils any more?

It is to the people who ask these questions, who have been resolute but silent for so long - the backbone of our country - that I am addressing my comments to today.

Conservatives will stand up for the silent, law abiding majority who play by the rules and pay their dues.

We will put their rights first.

Like them, I have had enough of the culture of political correctness - which is designed to blur the distinction between right and wrong.

And like them, I have had enough of excuses for poor behaviour and crime.

If we are to tackle crime, we must begin to challenge these attitudes head on.

But we must also tackle the fundamental problems at the heart of our criminal justice system.

It's not just about money.

This year we will spend £19 billion on our criminal justice system - the equivalent of £316 for every man, woman and child in the country.

Home Office spending has risen by 65% since 1997.

Yet crime is still rising.

It's about culture, belief, approach.

At every step of the way, our criminal justice system has become overwhelmed by political correctness and paperwork.

Political correctness and paperwork are undermining our police.

The police can only do their job properly if they are able to intervene, to confront and to take action against crime and anti-social behaviour.

They cannot police our streets if they have one hand tied behind their back, or if paperwork keeps them chained to their desks.

So great is the deluge of paperwork that, for every extra police officer Labour have recruited, almost one extra bureaucrat has had to be employed.

So great is the number of pen pushers that they will not fit into the new Home Office that Labour are building.

Mismanagement is rife in both the Crown Prosecution Service and our courts.

Seven per cent of cases are now abandoned because of errors by the CPS.

In London alone 1,400 defendants went free last year because of delays in gathering evidence.

A fifth of all trials don't start when they are meant to.

Labour have downgraded prison as a punishment with the introduction of their early release scheme.

Since it was introduced in 1999, more than 3,500 crimes have been committed by prisoners on early release - including nine serious sexual crimes.

And finally we have failed to invest in new prison capacity, thereby constraining the ability of our courts to send persistent, serious and dangerous criminals to prison.

This is the politics of the mad house.

The first duty of government - any government - is to protect the public and maintain law and order.

But government in Britain today is manifestly failing in that duty today.

Restoring law and order to Britain will be a priority for the Conservatives.

How? First, rebuilding respect.

Children, especially boys, benefit hugely from a male influence in their lives.

Of course this isn't always possible because a large number of men simply abandon their responsibilities as fathers.

But there are many fathers in Britain today who do want to play their part, yet cannot get access to their children.

Conservatives believe that there should be a strong legal presumption in favour of both parents having equal rights in the upbringing of their children.

This change to our family law will mean that fathers are much more likely to remain involved in their children's lives even when families split up.

Discipline in school is also essential if children are to learn respect for authority at an early age.

I suspect that I am just one of millions of parents and grandparents bewildered and horrified by the breakdown in discipline in our schools.

Violence in the class room is rising - up nine-fold since 1997.

Yet all too often teachers cannot discipline pupils, let alone expel them from school.

And it is often teachers - not pupils - who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Only recently we had the nonsense of a teacher taken to the Crown Court to stand trial by jury because she had - in jest - put some tape over the mouth of a child.

Disruptive and violent pupils don't just ruin their own education - they ruin that of every other child in the class.

We will introduce enforceable home-school contracts that spell out both parents' and pupils' responsibilities.

And we will give heads complete control over expulsion.

If they decide to expel a disruptive pupil, they will not be second-guessed by an outside panel.

Next, the police.

As with every other public service, Labour has inundated the police with Whitehall targets, inspectorates and directives.

Of course, the move towards centralisation did not start in May 1997.

It has been happening gradually for decades.

But top down control has ballooned under this government.

Under Labour, the National Policing Plan sets out five strategic priorities for the police.

The Police Performance and Assessment Framework has 13 headline measures and 36 component measures.

The police are overseen by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Audit Commission and a new Police Standards Unit.

As Robert Peel, the founder of Britain's police force, said: "The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder - not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it".

But David Blunkett's Policing Performance Assessment Framework requires the police to: "measure the victims' - of domestic burglary or violent crime - satisfaction with the overall level of service provided".

But what the victims of burglary and violent crime want is to see the criminal who caused the crime caught, convicted and punished.

David Blunkett's bureaucratic framework also sets out to measure the percentage of local people who think their police "do a good job".

But people know if their police are doing a good job by the level of crime and disorder in their neighbourhood.

It is not PR that people want, it is effective policing.

Conservatives will give the police a simple, clear objective: "to prevent crime and disorder".

We need to police our streets - not de-police them.

We need a police force which intervenes, confronts and challenges every kind of crime and disorder - from graffiti and litter to burglary and robbery.

In short we need zero tolerance policing.

As Ray has shown in Middlesbrough, and Rudi Guiliani showed in New York, by challenging disorder you begin to claim ground back from the yobs and hoodlums controlling our cities.

You demonstrate that there is a line people cannot cross - and as police confidence rises in challenging unacceptable behaviour, so public confidence rises in the police.

By challenging so-called small crimes head-on, you push back the burglars, car thieves and drug dealers responsible for so much of the crime in Britain today.

Conservatives will cut away at the police paperwork that keeps policemen and women chained to their desks.

And here's an example of what we don't do.

The McPherson Report recommended that the police keep a record of every stop they make - and that anyone stopped by the police should be able to see a record of that paperwork.

On average, it will take about seven minutes to fill in the paperwork for each individual stop.

If a police officer saw a troublemaker on the high street, is he or she more likely to stop him if it means having to spend seven minutes filling in the paperwork back at the station? And imagine if it wasn't just one - but half a dozen? That's not just seven minutes - it's the best part of one hour.

Would that police officer still stop those troublemakers? The Government is about to launch further trials to implement this recommendation.

Conservatives would not implement this recommendation.

And Conservatives will support the police when it comes to stop and search.

Increased stop and search is part of the solution to rising crime.

Effective policing depends on stop and search.

In response to the 9/11 disaster David Blunkett rightly gave the police new stop and search powers to deal with terrorism.

At the time he described them as "reasonable and proportionate".

Not surprisingly the police used those new powers.

But no sooner had they done so than the Government instigated an inquiry into their use.

Politicians in Whitehall need to stop second guessing the police at every turn.

And Conservatives will put more police back on our streets.

We will massively increase police numbers across the country.

The lesson of Guiliani's success in New York is that you need to increase police numbers.

Licensing Laws: Everyone knows that a great deal of criminal behaviour is fuelled by alcohol.

I am all in favour of people having a good time - and the creation of a café culture is part of the process of regeneration in our towns and cities.

But in many places what we're seeing isn't a café culture - it's a yob culture.

The Government claims to have handed control over licensing to local councils.

But as always with Labour, it's not real local control.

For example, central government guidelines make it virtually impossible for local councils to turn down applications if they think there are already too many bars or clubs in an area.

But local people must be able to say through their elected representatives "enough is enough" if they want to.

Conservatives will give local councils real control over licensing in their area.

Punishing Offenders: When it comes to punishing offenders, we need to send a clear, unequivocal message to criminals - if you break the law you will be punished.

Cautions should be for first time offenders - community penalties for less serious crimes.

But persistent, violent and dangerous criminals should be sent to prison.

The public needs protection from them.

A hard core of criminals commit most of the crime in Britain today.

If they are behind bars they cannot commit more crime.

Prison: Under Labour, prison building has not kept up with the rise in the prison population.

As a consequence our prisons are over crowded.

Prisoners are now being released early to cope with the problem - and the courts are increasingly unable to sentence persistent offenders to prison.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Labour have set an arbitrary limit on the prison population in the UK.

Ministers have said it must not rise above 80,000.

This is an extremely dangerous approach - which will only store up problems for the future.

Yes prison building costs money - but it is the first duty of government to protect the public.

The best way to do that is to put serious, persistent and dangerous criminals behind bars.

And it sends a powerful to message to those outside prison - crime doesn't pay.

The cost to society of failing to take action is far greater than the cost of prison building itself.

Conservatives will also end the Government's dangerous early release scheme.

It's not a question of if we build new prisons - it is a question of how many new prisons we build and what kind of prisons they are.

And zero tolerance should apply just as much inside prison as on our streets.

We will drug test all prisoners on arrival - and test them regularly throughout their sentence.

Recent reports from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons suggest that drug testing in prisons is not being effectively implemented.

And how many people know that when prisoners commit crimes against other inmates, they are rarely prosecuted.

Why? If prisoners commit crimes they should be prosecuted.

Failure to do so brings the law into disrepute.

Finally, drugs.

Despite increasing drug abuse, there are only 2,000 rehab places in the entire country.

That's right just 2,000.

All the evidence shows that people with a drug habit are more likely to kick it if they receive intensive treatment in a secure, residential clinic.

So we will increase the number of rehab places to 20,000 - enough for every hard drug addict aged 16 to 24.

Addicts will then face a choice - rehab or prison.

And if you drop out of rehab you go straight to prison.

There will be no second chances.

If we are to get young addicts off the conveyor belt to crime we will need to be firm but fair.

Conclusion: On 20 November 1996 Ray Mallon was appointed Head of Crime Strategy for the Middlesbrough Division of Cleveland Police.

That same day he pledged to cut crime by 20% within eighteen months or else resign.

Ray exceeded his target within six months.

Crime is still falling in Middlesbrough today.

But across Britain crime is rising.

People today fear crime.

They know that the criminal justice system is moving in the wrong direction and that as a society we are under attack from values which put rights before responsibility.

We need to make clear the difference between right and wrong.

We need an end to the excuses for poor behaviour and crime.

We need to stand up for the resolute, silent majority.

Our society needs more discipline, decent values and respect.

Respect for people, respect for property and respect for the neighbourhood.

Today crime is out of control and, under Labour, it will only get worse.

By cutting police paperwork and political correctness, and putting more police on the beat, we can and we will make our streets safer.

Why should people believe me any more than any other politician when I say this? Because I have some experience when it comes to cutting crime.

Last month Tony Blair boasted that it was time to end the 1960s consensus on law and order.

But the truth is I ended that consensus when I became Home Secretary in 1993.

My approach was simple: to give the police the powers they needed to catch criminals; to give the courts the powers they needed to convict criminals; and to give our prisons the space to take persistent, serious and dangerous offenders out of circulation altogether.

That approach worked.

By 1997 when I left the Home Office, almost one million fewer crimes were being committed each year.

I am proud of my record cutting crime.

I did not accept then and I do not accept now that rising crime is an inevitable fact of modern life.

With decisive action and clear leadership, we can cut crime.

But although I have a track record, I know that, to the silent, resolute and decent people who may read or hear these words, that will not be enough.

Talk is cheap.

People have had enough of personal crusades that last as long as a news bulletin.

They want to know that, for a change, a politician means what he says, and will be prepared to take the rap if he fails.

My fight against crime will not last for a news bulletin.

It will last for five years.

After five years, I will be happy to be judged on my record.

As I showed when I was Home Secretary - and Ray Mallon has shown in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool - if you are resolute, if you are determined, if you have the will, you can cut crime.

We are resolute, we are determined, we have the will.

We will cut crime."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Watch Michael Howard's speech in full
"Many people now believe that they are no longer wholly responsible for their actions"



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