Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 17:57 UK

Cherie's crime fears for children

Cherie Blair says she is concerned about her children when they go out on the streets

Cherie Blair has offered a "sad indictment" of Labour's crime policy after she told MPs she worried about her children's safety, the Tories say.

Giving evidence to a select committee, Mrs Blair said the government's crime statistics hid the true extent of gun and knife crime among young people.

And that, as a parent, she worried about her children on the streets.

The Tories said Mrs Blair's husband, Tony Blair, had promised to get tough on crime but failed to do so.

Mrs Blair was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee as a member of Channel 4's Street Weapons commission, which is investigating gun and knife crime.

She said: "As a parent I am concerned about what's happening when my children are on the street and I know I am not unique in that by any means."

'Much higher'

The mother-of-four also cast doubt on government crime statistics which she said hid the true extent of the problem, as they did not include under 16s.

She said hospital admission and anecdotal evidence suggested the real figures for violent crime were much higher.

It seems her eyes have been opened to what life is like for many youngsters on the streets of what was, not so very long ago, Blair's Britain

"Anecdotally it seems clear that the perception is that it's much worse," she said.

"I think the evidence that we heard from people on the street and indeed the figures we were getting from hospitals, is that there are more people presenting with injuries caused in this way."

She went on: "Because this is almost a new phenomenon - that younger children are carrying knives and, sadly, using them - the statistics are not looking at the right areas.

"They need to broaden what they are looking at."

Crime 'glamour'

Mrs Blair called for more high visibility policing, targeting places where officers know youths often carry weapons.

She praised such a project in Hackney, east London.

"If young people think they can carry knives and no-one's ever going to pick them up carrying a knife then they are more likely to take one out," she told the committee.

"Whereas, if they think when they carry a knife that's going to be detected, that may well make a really big difference."

She also said the "glamour" had to be stripped from crime and young people made to realise they could gain respect without carrying a weapon.

'Tough on crime'

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said Mrs Blair's comments were "a sad indictment of ten years of failure".

"Tony Blair promised to get tough on crime and its causes but failed to do so.

"Under Labour drugs use, alcohol abuse and family breakdown have increased fuelling crime, especially violent crime.

"As for crime figures being under-reported, one of the reasons people do not believe the government are serious about dealing with youth crime is because their preferred method of measuring crime - the British Crime Survey - has to date not even included crimes involving under 16's.

"Conservatives would deploy more police on the streets to catch and deter violent offenders, ensure more prison places so that serious violent offenders who should be in jail are in jail and tackle the long term causes of crime which lead to so much tragic violence."

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