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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK

UK Politics

Jack Straw speech in full

This is the full text of Home Secretary Jack Straw's speech to the Labour Party conference:

At the end of the last war, that great Labour government set about attacking William Beveridge's five great evils

- of idleness, ignorance, want, squalor and disease.

That battle has been renewed with even greater vigour since we won in 1997 - as we've heard so forcefully this week from John, Gordon, David and Frank -

100,000 young people back at work,

19 thousand million pounds going into our schools,

up to 15,000 more nurses and 37 new hospitals,

a national minimum wage

and the Working Families Tax Credit.

But there is another evil, which Beveridge did not even mention

It's the evil of fear.

Crime and the fear of crime harm individuals and disfigure communities.

As Neville Lawrence so movingly reminded us a few minutes ago, crime can change our lives for ever.

And though crime hits everybody hard, it robs the poorest, and bears down worst on the weakest.

So at the heart of our vision to build a fairer society must be a programme to build a safer society.

For too many years, rising crime seemed inevitable. Indeed, in the 1980's under the last Conservative Government, crime doubled.

But the rise in crime is reversible. It is lower today than when we came to office.

Burglary rates in cities like Liverpool and London are now at their lowest level for twenty years.

But there is no room for complacency. Our great task is to turn these recent gains into a sustained reduction in the long-term trend in crime.

That means new ideas, new resources - but it also means a new state of mind for us all.

And to achieve this, the Government has embarked on nothing less than a crusade against crime.

Now someone once said that politicians are people who tell you what they are going to do next; next week, next month, next year_.then come back twelve months later and explain to you why they didn't.

Well I'm here to tell you that we are delivering.

170 million for the biggest ever investment in closed circuit television,

250 million for crime reduction programmes,

New powers like anti-social behaviour orders.

And we are forging local crime-busting partnerships, joining the police, councils, businesses and voluntary organisations to make each of our neighbourhoods safe. Of course, the police play a crucial role in the crusade against crime.

They deserve and receive our lasting gratitude and our full support.


I spend my life talking to police officers.

At the moment, I virtually live with two of them.

It's very reassuring but playing havoc with the mini-bar this week!

So I think I know what the police need.

We have already given them important new powers and more money too.

One and a quarter billion pounds extra over these next three years.

But today I am announcing a major new initiative -

a new Crime Fighting Fund.

First of all this fund will be used to recruit more police officers.

So, over the next three years, on top of the 11,000 recruits already planned, we will be giving the police the money they need to recruit 5,000 more officers. That's 5,000 more police officers over and above the police services' recruiting plans.

That's not the sort of hollow promise the Conservative's used to make.

Our money will be ring-fenced funding for front-line policing.

Secondly, we are going to harness new technology to keep the police ahead of the criminals.

That's why the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that our Crime Fighting Fund will be used for a dramatic expansion of the DNA database to bring thousands more criminals to justice.

And I am also pleased to tell you now that we will be providing another 50 million to bring police communication into the digital era.

In some places Police radio systems are so old fashioned - a Chief Constable told me recently - that officers are more likely to make contact with taxi drivers in Amsterdam than with their own HQ.

What the police will be getting is a reliable, secure system, giving officers direct access to photographs, maps, finger-prints and car registrations.

Not back at the station, but out there on patrol,

helping the police do the job they do best - preventing crime and catching criminals.


modernising the police is about much more than extra money and new technology,

it is about modernising attitudes as well.

The inquiry report into the death of Stephen Lawrence had many difficult messages for the police service - and for the rest of us.

It is not just the police who have to reflect and respect the communities they serve.

The Fire Service, the Prison Service, the Civil Service - all will now have to meet clear targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of black and Asian staff.

In ten years time, I want it to be no more unusual to see a black or Asian police officer or fire fighter than it is to see a black or Asian doctor or nurse.

And one day we'll see a Black or Asian Home Secretary standing here addressing a Labour Conference.

For the whole of its hundred years in existence, our party has campaigned powerfully against inequality and unfairness.

It was our party which introduced the Race Relations Acts of the 1960s and 1970s.

Our vision to end discrimination is one that makes no apologies for people's differences, but celebrates the rich diversity of multi-racial Britain today.

Our vision is one that will ensure, not that people are treated the same, but that they are treated equally.

That is why we will be bringing in new and stronger Race Relations Laws as soon as possible - and that's a promise.

Why does race matter?

The truth is that, in one sense, it shouldn't matter at all.

To judge men and women by their race,

is to make a judgement without meaning.

To judge men and women by the colour of their skin, black, brown or pink,

is as meaningless a means of judgement,

as to judge men and women

by the length of their nose,

the hand with which they write

or the size of their feet

Racism is absurd, a poison, a form of madness.

Maybe we have all been mad

to allow a society where such things matter.

One day they will not.

We can judge ourselves by what does matter -

by the good we do, the contribution we make, the love, affection and joy which we may bring to others.

There's another poison that wrecks lives and undermines entire communities.


In some of our cities half of those arrested test positive for heroin.

For this, the rest of us pay a very high price.

Billions of pounds of our possessions are stolen each year to feed this habit.

But identifying the addicts isn't always easy.

Often they don't admit the truth of their addiction to themselves, still less to others.

But what we know for sure is that as soon as they leave the Police station, they will be almost certainly burgling again and again.

Identifying those who are addicted, and reducing crime go hand in hand.

That's why we're going to extend drugs testing.

We must also send out a clear signal that the sentences of the court must be taken seriously.

So from next April, for most offenders, there will be only one warning over missed appointments. After that I will expect the probation service to return them to court.

Across the country, it is the elderly - the most vulnerable -those who should be freely enjoying their retirement, who are in greatest fear of crime.

Yesterday John Prescott announced a scheme to give the least well off pensioners help to keep their home warm.

Well, that got us thinking....

When John's people go in to the pensioners' homes to upgrade their heating and insulation, why not get them to upgrade their security at the same time?

John and I have spoken about this and we are delighted to announce that from next April every pensioner who qualifies for the home insulation scheme will also get help in keeping their home safe.

That means free locks and bolts for at least 150,000 of our least well-off pensioners.

"Joined-up" Government in action - helping our pensioners feel warmer in winter, and safer through-out the year.

Making our old people safe from crime also means turning our young people away from crime.

Target children early enough and we can make a difference - leave it too late and we all pay the price.

As on everything else, the Tories talked tough on young offenders, but did next to nothing.

Nothing to tackle the causes of delinquency,

Nothing to tackle the outrageous delays in the court system,

No child-care support for parents,

No serious action against truancy,

And nothing at all to stop the bail bandits - in and out of court one day, re-offending the next.

We have given the courts clear powers to keep the worst offenders off the streets.

We are tackling youth crime as we promised.

We will meet our key election pledge to halve the time it takes to deal with persistent young offenders.

And, across the country, we are investing millions of pounds on projects to tackle the causes of crime and nip young offending in the bud.

Today, I can announce a further 50 million worth of new projects to tackle youth crime.

Including 13 million in highly targeted youth work for 70 of our highest crime areas.


for far too long governments ignored the problems of youngsters slipping into a life of crime.

They wrung their hands, they made excuses.

From the adult prisons that I visit I know the result of their past neglect.

This cannot go on - we must break out of the downward cycle of crime, drugs, victims and wasted lives.

We have to stop the young offenders of today becoming the adult criminals of tomorrow.

It's only right and fair that we should.

We are the party of fairness and fair shares.

We must build a society where everyone can enjoy equal chances and equal respect.

Where families are supported and communities are allowed to flourish.

And, Conference,

we have to work together to conquer that sixth great evil - the evil of fear,

and put in its place

security and liberty for all.

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