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The BBC's June Kelly
"He has no background in this area"
 real 56k

Monday, 10 July, 2000, 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK
Birt crime job offer criticised
John Birt
Tony Blair asked Lord Birt personally to do the job
Opposition leaders have questioned the government's commitment to tackling crime after appointing former BBC director general John Birt as a crime adviser.

Prime Minister Tony Blair asked Lord Birt personally to work as an unpaid adviser on long-term solutions to crime.

Appointing Mr Birt to work as an adviser for one day a week hardly shows a commitment to reducing crime.

Ann Widdecombe

Lord Birt, 56, has no previous experience in criminology and the appointment has prompted criticism from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "Appointing Mr Birt to work as an adviser for one day a week hardly shows a commitment to reducing crime."

"If the prime minister wants advice on fighting crime, he should go and ask the people of this country. They want to see more bobbies on the beat."

Questionable judgments

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram also questioned the appointment.

"I would have thought that Tony Blair would have learnt by now that appointing his friends to positions of influence is a recipe for incompetent government and questionable judgments," he said.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said: "Lord Birt's appointment will make people wonder: after 18 years in opposition and three years in government and the huge amount of facts, figures and research already available, what has Labour been doing?"

However, Mr Prescott insisted Lord Birt would make a valid contribution and he defended his appointment.

"Every government appoints people who they believe have got a contribution to make ... in assessing problems and coming to conclusions.

"Here are the people who have got experience, can use logic, can use intelligence to contribute to being tough on crime."

Tax affairs

Lord Birt is almost certain to take up the appointment while remaining a crossbench peer.

His task will be to study long-term crime and social trends and suggest innovative approaches.

He will carry out the job in consultation with the three government ministers responsible - Home Secretary Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine and the Attorney General Lord Williams.

Lord Birt has previously been criticised over his tax affairs, his so-called Birtist reform programme at the BBC and even his taste for expensive Armani suits.

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26 Jan 00 | UK
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