Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 11:04 UK

Johnson pledge to tackle disorder

Alan Johnson's speech to conference

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has promised to respond to public anxiety over anti-social behaviour by tackling it "whenever and wherever it occurs".

Mr Johnson told the Labour conference the party had an "excellent record" on crime since 1997 but needed to do more.

Those breaching anti-social behaviour orders (asbos) must be prosecuted and enforcement powers used consistently.

Gordon Brown later pledged a crackdown on those "playing by different rules or no rules at all all".

'Consistent standards'

The government would not tolerate anti-social behaviour of any kind, he said, outlining measures to tackle "problem families" and alcohol-related disorder.

Mr Johnson said Labour had made real progress in tackling anti-social behaviour.

However, he said the "terrible" case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter - who committed suicide after suffering years of abuse by a gang of youths in their Leicestershire street - showed the levels of "public anxiety" that more must be done.

Mark Easton
It seems there is a big red button marked 'ASB' at Labour HQ. The sign next to it reads: 'In case of electoral emergency, press here'
Mark Easton, BBC home editor

He said there must be "no excuses" for the failings shown up by the case and "no complacency" in dealing with the weaknesses in how the police dealt with such cases.

"Our streets are safer but not as safe as they need to be," he said.

"We need to guarantee consistent standards for dealing with anti-social behaviour everywhere.

"We need to make it clear that anti-social behaviour is not a low-level crime to be tolerated but a major source of insecurity and unhappiness that has to be tackled whenever and wherever it occurs."

Mr Johnson earlier told the BBC the government had "coasted a bit" on the issue but denied anti-social behaviour orders (asbos) were no longer effective.

'Talking like John Wayne'

The home secretary said crime had fallen significantly under Labour and accused the Tories of talking tough on crime - using what he described as "John Wayne rhetoric" - but having no policies to back it up.

"They have the unenviable record of having failed on crime in government and in opposition," he said.

Speaking to the BBC's World at One, Justice Secretary Jack Straw also defended the use of asbos, saying they had filled a "vacuum" in the criminal justice system.

We have to defend our record, explain our vision and show our unity
Home Secretary Alan Johnson

"It wasn't possible to deal effectively at all with apparently low level public order problems that were so persistent that they ruined people's lives."

Mr Straw said it was "utter nonsense" to suggest that asbos were viewed as trophies by those causing trouble, adding: "The problem is that there is varied enforcement of these provisions."

He also cited a case from his own constituency in Blackburn in which he succeeded in having "a completely dysfunctional family" moved despite social services "bleating that we had to really take care about this woman who was a serial drug addict and her children".

Mr Johnson urged the party to rally round Gordon Brown in its fight to seek a historic fourth term in office, saying "only Labour could offer hope and opportunity" to the British public.

"We have to defend our record, explain our vision and show our unity," he said.

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