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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Labour dubbed 'government of gimmicks'
Mr Blair challenged Tories to back a hooligans blitz
Labour has been accused of being a "government of gimmicks" over law-and-order announcements which have either failed to deliver or to materialise.

Conservative Leader William Hague taunted the prime minister over child curfew orders and the idea of on-the-spot fines for drunken louts.

And he mocked Mr Blair for Labour's wrangling over "spin".

If there was a fixed penalty notice for evading the question, you would be bankrupt by now

William Hague
Mr Hague launched his attacks during Prime Minister's Question Time - but Mr Blair fought back, saying the government was delivering on "substance".

The Tory leader recalled Mr Blair's announcement last week of the idea of on-the spot fines for louts. It was suggested police officers could take offenders to cashpoints to pay up to 100.

'Whose idea?'

Mr Hague repeatedly called on the prime minister to reveal whose idea it had been.

It can't have been civil servants as they did not know about it, he said. It was not ministers, as they later dismissed it as a metaphor, and it was not police, as they dubbed the idea ludicrous.

And he mocked the idea of drunkards "forming an orderly queue" at cashpoint machines.

Mr Blair did not answer directly, but repeatedly tried to turn the debate onto whether the Conservatives would support fixed penalty notices.

To Tory laughter, Mr Hague told the prime minister: "If there was a fixed penalty notice for evading the question, you would be bankrupt by now."

He invited Labour backbenchers to put their hands up to admit having had the idea.

Mr Hague branded the idea "yet another gimmick from a government of gimmicks".

'Tories oppose crackdown'

He then asked how many child curfew orders - announced by the government soon after coming to power in 1997 - had been issued.

Two months ago, the government admitted in Parliament that no local authorities had applied for such an order.

Mr Blair said anti-social-behaviour orders were indeed being used around the country.

And he accused the Tories of failing to support the government's anti-hooligan measures, since Tory Lords had said they would not support Jack Straw's plans to speed through legislation.

"Are you going to back us on disorderly conduct and football hooligans or not. Yes or no?" Mr Blair asked.

Early release row

Returning to child curfew orders, and to more laughter, Mr Hague told the prime minister the answer was probably in his folder - if he had a pin number to get into it.

None had been issued, he went on. "Is that what he meant by zero tolerance at the last election? It's yet another gimmick." he asked.

Gimmicks had done nothing to combat crime, he said.

Mr Hague also blamed the government for the thousands of violent criminals released early who have committed further offences.

Mr Blair said the Conservatives had supported the early release scheme and accused the opposition of not wanting to talk about substance.

Spin or issues?

And he listed measures the government had taken, such as fines on illegal immigrant traffickers.

Mr Hague accused Mr Blair of focusing on dealing with leaks, spin and press headlines instead of the real issues.

He branded Labour's troubles "a sure sign of weakness and failure of leadership".

But Mr Blair highlighted government achievements such as a record number of jobs created since 1997, new a hospital building programme and a 1bn programme for science.

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See also:

05 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Questions over Blair's Commons blunders
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair backs down on fining 'louts'
04 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair 'must curb spin doctors'
05 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Brown bids to damp euro row
05 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Tory warning on hooligan measures
04 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Leaked memos look like a campaign
26 Jun 00 | Talking Point
Drink and violence: An English problem?
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