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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Terror fight 'key to third term'
David Blunkett
Blunkett said Blair/Brown allies must stop feuding
Labour can forget about a third term in government if it gets its anti-terror measures wrong, David Blunkett has told the party's conference in Brighton.

Saying preventing terror was more important than "picking up the pieces" afterwards, the home secretary pledged a cash boost for Special Branch.

Mr Blunkett signalled crime would be a key plank of Labour's election battle.

He is to speed up recruitment of an extra 20,000 community support officers to help fight nuisance behaviour.

Amid tight security around the conference venue, Mr Blunkett railed against people who argued there was not a new threat, despite the Madrid train bombings and the Beslan school siege.

I would rather be a tough home secretary in a compassionate Labour government than a compassionate opponent of a hardline Tory government
David Blunkett

He warned: "If we did not do what we are doing and we did not do this right we could say goodbye to a third term in government because we would never be forgiven... if we did not make sure that no one threatens our lives in this country."

Mr Blunkett said it was not decontamination suits which saved lives but the counter-terrorism forces which had protected Britain so far.

He pledged an extra 90m for counter terrorism, which by 2008 would take the budget to twice the levels seen before the US terror attacks.

The money will mostly be spent on more Special Branch officers to match the current drive to double the size of security service MI5.

Mr Blunkett embraced his image as a tough Home Secretary, despite some criticism from parts of the Labour Party for being too illiberal.

He said: "I would rather be a tough home secretary in a compassionate Labour government than a compassionate opponent of a right-wing hardline Michael Howard Tory government."

'Record police numbers'

Mr Blunkett said there were a record 139,728 police officers by the end of August in England and Wales, up 10,000 on two years ago.

But he is particularly pushing the CSOs, who do not have powers of arrest but can detain people for up to half an hour.

There are currently just under 4,000 CSOs but Mr Blunkett is promising to use new money start recruiting more next month rather than next year in every area of England and Wales so there are 20,000 of them by 2008.

Police criticisms

Labour officials insist they are not "plastic policemen" and have been popular where they have been introduced, including with police.

But Police Federation chairman Jan Berry said she was disappointed so much money was being spent before the work of CSOs had been properly evaluated.

1518 BST: A visibly relieved Mr Blair takes a sip of water, as he reaches the end of his mea nearly culpa on the war
Brian Wheeler
BBC News Online

Research suggested there was confusion about the different powers police and CSOs had and there needed to be some clarification, she said.

Mr Blunkett also announced the programme of "weekend jails", where offenders are locked up for part of the week but otherwise stay at home.

The scheme has been trialled at two prisons and is now being rolled out so all courts in England and Wales can use it in 18 months time.

'Crack houses'

At the same time, Mr Blunkett promising an extra 320m for the prisons and probation budget to buy 1,300 new prison places and boost numbers of probation officers by 1,800 to a record 21,000.

He also repeated plans to name and shame youths who break, rather than just receive, anti-social behaviour orders.

And he underlined plans for new e-borders, where all those crossing British borders are electronically registered and hailed progress against unfounded asylum claims.

But shadow home secretary David Davis said the asylum system was a "shambles" and crime had gone up, not down.

"David Blunkett continues to talk tough on anti-social behaviour but it will take more than Home Office rhetoric and gimmicks to tackle the problem," he said, saying more police, not CSOs were needed.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten said: "People would much prefer it if Mr Blunkett spent more time developing tough and effective solutions rather than just talking tough.

"We need long-term solutions not just headline-chasing quick fixes."

UK Independence Party MEP John Whittaker said local communities needed police with full powers who were not tied up with red tape.

He accused Mr Blunkett of producing several schemes on asylum without getting to the problem's root.

David Blunkett on his plans to improve law and order

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