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Widdecombe: Labour has failed on crime

Labour's came to power promising to be 'tough on crime'. But in Government Tony Blair and Jack Straw have failed to deliver. Last week we saw Britain topping the premier league of crime. Even Jack Straw's special adviser admits that Labour are soft on crime.

"To prove their failure, we have gathered together 10 Labour promises, and the hard evidence which shows that they have not delivered.

"Exhibit A: Labour's promises to increase police numbers. In 1995, Tony Blair promised that a Labour Government would put 'thousands more police officers on the beat'. But since he became Prime Minister, there are 2,500 fewer police officers, 1,900 fewer constables, and patrolling levels have dropped.

"Exhibit B: Labour's youth justice pledge to halve the time from arrest to sentence. Jack Straw said that this was one of Labour's 'five key pledges to the British people'. But their own Youth Justice Board has revealed that this pledge will not be met in time for the election.

"Exhibit C: Labour's child curfew orders which Tony Blair pledged would stop 'young children wandering the streets at night… growing into a life of criminality.' But not one of these orders has been made.

"Exhibit D: Labour's anti-social behaviour orders. Jack Straw billed them as the solution to crime, saying they would 'give neighbourhoods back to decent people, and take control away from the criminals and drug dealers.' They said 5,000 would be issued every year - but over the past 2 years, just 150 have been made.

"Exhibit E: Labour's failure on sentencing. Their manifesto promised an 'effective sentencing system'. But their special early release scheme has seen over 30,000 criminals let out of jail up to 2 months before the normal release dates - including thousands of convicted robbers, burglars and drug dealers.

"Exhibit F: Bureaucratic burdens on the police. Jack Straw pledged to tackle bureaucracy, but officers up and down the country are complaining of the extra bureaucracy imposed by Labour's Best Value scheme.

"Exhibit G: Labour's failure to support the police. Tony Blair said Labour stood 'shoulder to shoulder' with the police. But police morale is now at an all-time low. Hundreds of criminals convicted of assaulting police officers have been released by Labour after serving just one third of their prison terms.

"Exhibit H: Labour's promises to victims. Tony Blair promised to legislate to put the police and lawyers under a duty to consult victims about their cases. But last month the Government admitted that this had not been done.

"Exhibit I: Jack Straw's pledge to abolish conditional discharge in the youth court. Last month the Home Office admitted that this had not been done - and that nearly 25,000 conditional discharges were made in 1999.

"Exhibit J: Jack Straw's pledge to increase the use of so-called 'professional witnesses' such as private detectives to gather evidence. But he admits that he can't say whether or not this has happened - and that the guidelines on these witnesses which were recommended in June 1998 haven't even been published yet.

""Those are the charges against this Labour Government.

"Conservatives want to see a strong, confident police force that has the men and the morale to win the fight against crime. We will reverse Labour's cuts in police numbers. We will introduce a national police cadet force, to encourage more young people to join the police. A Conservative Government will ensure that more police spend more of their time actually fighting crime.

"Our Victims First initiative will ensure that the victims of crime have guaranteed legal rights. We will overhaul the law so that it is on the side of the victim, not the criminal.

"We will end Labour's disastrous special early release policy. We will introduce honesty in sentencing so that criminals serve the terms they are given in court, and ensure that they spend more time doing productive work.

"We will also implement a range of measures to protect our children. Instead of letting them out from prison let out of prison early, we will make sure that drug dealers who will not stop dealing to children will face tough minimum sentences. We have tabled amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill to protect children from paedophiles who use internet chatrooms.

"Labour have manifestly failed to deliver on their promises. They pledged they would be 'tough on crime', but in four years of Government they have been tough on the crimefighters and the victims of crime.

"There can only be one verdict on Jack Straw and Tony Blair: guilty as charged.

"There can only be one sentence passed on Labour: to be thrown out of office for a term of at least five years.

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