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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Blair calls for better parenting
Tony Blair
The law abiding majority should be protected, argues Mr Blair
Respect for other people must be learnt within families first, said Tony Blair as he launched a new drive against bad parenting and anti-social behaviour.

In his first speech since his summer holiday, Mr Blair called for change in the UK's culture as well as new laws.

Mr Blair announced plans to extend the use of orders telling parents how to deal with their unruly children.

But the Tories and Lib Dems say new laws on alcohol sales will add to anti-social behaviour problems.

Under plans to be outlined in detail in November, housing officers and local anti-social behaviour teams will be added to the list of agencies which can apply for parenting orders.

Decades of liberal attitudes have resulted in the problems society now has to face
Brian Langfield, Yorkshire, UK

Speaking in Watford, Mr Blair said the orders were currently only used once a child had committed a crime or been expelled from school.

Under the new plans, law enforcement agencies could intervene earlier once children showed signs of beginning to "go off the rails", he said.

New task force

"The importance of the family is that it's in the family that we have to come to terms with the idea of give and take and respect for other people," argued Mr Blair.

A new government task force on the "Respect" agenda is being set up. It will be headed by Louise Casey, former national director of the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Unit will continue its work.

A Home Office spokesman insisted the new task force would not duplicate its work but instead have a broader remit and work include officials from across government.

The prime minister has made respect a major theme of his final term of office.

Mr Blair stressed the picture on crime was not all bleak but a small minority could cause problems for whole communities.

Nanny state?

Critics of the policy question whether the state can or should tell people how to raise their children.

But Mr Blair dismissed accusations of a "nanny state".

"People need to understand that if their kids are out of control and they are causing a nuisance to the local community, there is something that is going to happen," he said.

But there should also be help and support on offer, rather than just punishment, he added.

Alcohol worries

Conservative families spokeswoman Theresa May accused ministers of sending "mixed messages" by allowing supermarkets and corner shops to open later under new licensing laws.

They were often the main source of alcohol for underage drinkers, she said.

She also urged the government to give parents more support in bringing up their children before they started running out of control.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "If the prime minister had wanted to show real action he would have announced a suspension to the licensing legislation."

Mr Oaten said a new task force was not needed and would only intervene between different departments and "egos".

But he supported new help for parents.

'Problem families' fear

Pam Hibbert, from children's charity Barnardo's, warned that Mr Blair's approach gave the impression children were the prime cause of nuisance behaviour when only a very small minority caused problems.

Joyce Moseley, chief Executive of young people's charity Rainer, said parenting orders were not "state meddling" but offered genuine help.

She said there needed to be clear guidelines if housing associations could apply for the orders.

"We could see the focus move from using orders on families that need them to all those perceived as 'problem families' by other tenants," she said.

Watch Mr Blair outline his plans to tackle the problem

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