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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 12:32 GMT
I'm not draconian, says Blunkett
David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett says the public want new police powers
Security could lose but not win an election for Labour, Home Secretary David Blunkett has said as he denied new police powers were authoritarian.

The government has been accused of trying to create a "climate of fear" through new law and order measures.

And there are fears plans to give police and civilian officers more powers go too far.

Rejecting claims he was draconian, Mr Blunkett said people would turn to the far right if they did not feel safe.

Phoney fury?

Commons' Leader Peter Hain meanwhile reiterated his remarks that Britain was safer under Labour.

He accused opposition parties of "phoney fury" and of "protesting too much" about what he had said.

"I believe Britain will be safer just as I believe it will be more prosperous under Labour," he told MPs.

Mr Hain's original comments came after this week's Queen's Speech which was dominated by measures against crime, drugs and terrorism.

Fighting fear

The Liberal Democrats branded them "disgusting", while the Tories said they were "extraordinary".

But Mr Blunkett said the Commons leader had simply been saying the government's plans to boost security would make the country more secure, rather than making a party political point.

People can have what they have cried out for, which is visibility and availability of policing
David Blunkett
Home Secretary

"Unless we secure the safety, the stability, the freedom from fear of people in their lives and communities, we cannot ask them to address broader issues," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They turn to the far right, not the liberal left, when they are fearful...

"I don't pretend that I can win elections on improved security, policing, crime reduction but I could certainly lose it."

Civilian powers

Plans to combat serious and organised crime unveiled on Wednesday include giving police powers of arrest for all offences - something the Law Society says will skew the balance between police and civil liberties.

Civilian community support officers (CSOs) would also be able to search detained people for "dangerous" items, direct traffic and deter beggars.

Ministers say they will also consider arming CSOs with batons and CS spray, but stress they do not need the same equipment as police.

The Police Federation warns the move will further confuse people about the role of the civilian officers.

Federation chairman Jan Berry said: "By giving them more powers we are effectively taking them away from the communities they are there to serve and it also begs the question of what is the difference between a CSO and a police officer."

Mr Blunkett appealed to people in the legal system that if they exaggerated criticisms nobody would believe their warnings if ministers did propose anything that was genuinely draconian.

Public demand

He argued the new arrest powers tackled the "historic nonsense" of police having to decide before arrest whether somebody was doing something which could carry a five-year jail term.

And the role of police constables was clearly defined in the proposed new laws and would work as a "team leader" alongside the CSOs.

The Home Office plans to recruit 25,000 CSOs and Mr Blunkett said they had already proved popular.

"People can have what they have cried out for, which is visibility and availability of policing," he said.

Chief constables would be able to decide which powers the CSOs had in their areas, he added.

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