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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Davis vows to control immigration
By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News website, Conservative conference in Bournemouth

David Davis has vowed to bring immigration under control in a speech to the Conservative Party's annual conference, in Bournemouth.

The shadow home secretary said he would publish an analysis of the benefits and costs of immigration - something Tony Blair refused to do earlier this year.

The report will say immigration can be of enormous benefit to Britain.

But it must be properly managed, he said: "I promise you this. We will bring immigration back under control."

Mr Davis told delegates: "The failure to control our borders hasn't just led to more crime and less secure streets.

"It's also let down a lot of honest, hard-working immigrants who came to this country with something to contribute."

In July, Tony Blair rejected a call from Labour chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee chairman, Tony Wright, for a cost/benefit analysis of immigration.

"Migration on the whole is positive and with benefit to countries but it needs to be controlled," Mr Blair told the Commons liaison committee.

"Most people in the country are not racist and just think there ought to be some rules," added Mr Blair.

'Less secure streets'

Mr Davis said "unlike the Labour government" the Conservatives were "not afraid to talk honestly about immigration".

And he promised to "get to grips with an issue Labour has ignored for nine years in the hope it will go away".

"Thanks to the government's failure we've let in hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants not to mention hundreds of dangerous foreign criminals who should have been sent to jail or deported.

"That failure to control our borders hasn't just led to more crime and less secure streets.

"It's also let down a lot of honest and hard working immigrants with something to contribute."

On the criminal justice system, Mr Davis said his party did not want a "walk-on-by society" but one that restored the rigour of the courts and "strengthened the spine" of society.

'Law-abiding citizens'

Under Labour, police officers were being thwarted by bureaucracy at every turn, demoralised by soft sentencing and "distracted by navel-gazing initiatives".

He vowed: "We'll trust the police to get on with the job, not tie their hands with more red tape as the government continues to do. And we'll introduce direct local accountability of police authorities to the communities they serve."

Mr Davis mocked Labour's plans to hand out on-the-spot fines for a range of new offences, claiming criminals would be handed "the equivalent of parking fines for mugging, robbing and assaulting decent law-abiding citizens".

Under a Conservative government, he said, people who mugged, robbed or assaulted innocent victims would be brought before the courts and treated like the criminals they were.

He also spoke of the importance of reforming Britain's overcrowded prisons.

'Hug-a-hoodie'

"Prison can work," he said in an echo of former home secretary and ex Tory leader Michael Howard's famous phrase, but added: "But it is just not working at the moment."

Mr Davis pledged more prison places to ease overcrowding.

And he said more had to be done to get young criminals off drugs and into education to help them get off the "carousel of crime".

He also joked about Tory leader David Cameron's recent call to shower love and understanding on young troublemakers, dubbed the "hug-a-hoodie" strategy.

"I support that... the only difference between me and David is that I would them a little harder, and a little longer I suspect," he said.

Understated

Mr Davis' speech to the Tory conference last year was portrayed afterwards as the point at which he lost the battle for the party leadership to David Cameron.

His performance this year was similarly understated but was warmly received by delegates.

He spoke for 18 minutes, roughly the same length as last year's speech, but said at the outset he said he was not going for easy applause or laughs.

At the end, he was given a 30 second ovation by a three quarters full hall.


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