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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK

UK Politics

Widdecombe blasts 'calamity Jack'

Ann Widdecombe: Abandoned notes for annual conference address

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe has given another display of her conference speaking skills with a carefully-honed attack on "calamity Jack".

Miss Widdecombe took Home Secretary Jack Straw to task on a range of issues ranging from asylum laws to police recruitment.

But she also used the speech to detail a number of new Tory home affairs policies for the next election.

She promised party members the Conservatives would ensure criminals served the full sentence handed down by the courts.

Ann Widdecombe: "People join the police force to fight crime"
The Tory faithful received exactly the rousing performance they have come to know and love from their conference darling.

Following on from Tory leader William Hague's five guarantees to voters, the shadow home secretary sought to offer transparent promises on fighting crime.

[ image: William Hague joins in applauding the shadow home secretary]
William Hague joins in applauding the shadow home secretary
She accused Mr Straw of cutting police numbers without admitting he was doing so - in the same way the Tories argue the chancellor is raising taxes "by stealth".

Miss Widdecombe told the conference: "I have pledged that by whatever numbers police have fallen by the next election we will reverse that decline completely.

"No smoke, no mirrors - the net decline will be reversed."

[ image:  ]
She also pledged to contract out administrative work currently done by police officers to allow them to concentrate on catching criminals

She poked fun at the "zero tolerance" approach to policing adopted by the home secretary and the prime minister, which has included introducing curfew orders for young offenders.

"There hasn't been a single curfew order - that's what they mean by zero," she said.

"In other words, the much-vaunted policies by this government have been spectacular flops."

[ image:  ]
Miss Widdecombe also blamed the government for sending a message to asylum-seekers around the world that "Britain is again a soft touch".

She said amnesties allowing refugees to stay in the country and abolishing the safe countries initiative, under which asylum-seekers from some countries were treated less leniently than others, had caused this.

"There will be no more amnesties because every time there is an amnesty people come here in the hope of benefiting from the next one," she said.

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