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May: The root causes of crime

Speech at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"Drugs are at the root of a lot of crime, especially violent crime. They ruin families and destroy communities too. As the dealers and junkies take over, families move out, turning neighbourhoods into ghettos.

We cannot afford to sit back as drugs ruin more families and destroy more communities. We need a coherent, committed, consistent anti-drug programme.

Some people say that drugs are a matter of personal freedom. I disagree. It's time we stopped blurring the distinction between right and wrong. We need to send a clear message: "Drugs are wrong". No quibbling. No hedging.

Increasing drug abuse is not inevitable. Look at America where drug abuse by young people has declined. In two years there has been a more than ten per cent drop in the number of high school pupils taking illicit drugs - the first fall for a decade.

Why? Well partly because American children are getting a clear message about drugs - that they are wrong, that they aren't glamorous, that they ruin lives.

But here in Britain youngsters all too often get mixed messages. We have a government that tells children what to eat - that sweets and crisps make you fat - but isn't prepared to take a clear line on cannabis.

That is why a Conservative Government will reclassify cannabis - sending a clear message that the drug is dangerous.

And we'll fund a major advertising campaign with a clear, consistent anti-drugs message.

We'll tackle drugs at school too.

Head teachers need to be able to take firm action against drugs at school.

So the Conservatives will help schools introduce random drug testing, if parents and teachers want it.

We will provide the resources for testing machines in every local authority area.

Life is too precious simply to be written off - we have to give youngsters who get hooked on drugs the chance to get back on the straight and narrow.

All the evidence shows that residential rehab is the most effective means of treating addicts.

But in Britain today there are fewer than 2,500 residential rehab places available.

A Conservative Government will expand this massively, providing 25,000 residential places for hard drug users where they can spend six-months getting intensive treatment to get them off drugs.

That's enough to help 50,000 addicts a year.

It will allow us, over the course of a year, to treat every young teenage drug addict in Britain.

And we will give the police the power to send young drug addicts 'straight to treatment' at a residential treatment centre without first going to court.

Young drug users will be faced with a choice. Take up these places and come off drugs. Or go to court and face the possibility of time in prison.

There will be no soft option or half way house. Young drug abusers will have to face up to the consequences of their actions. They will have to seek treatment or accept that they will be punished by jail.

Those that do seek treatment will have a fresh start. They will not face criminal proceedings and will not have a criminal record. That's what we mean by the chance to change. Those that refuse treatment, or who do not complete their course, will be sent to court for their case to be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

Too many people in Britain today think that there is little or nothing that we can do about problems like drugs. Conservatives think differently. We don't promise the earth. But we are committed to tackling the problems that matter to families today.

We will implement a coherent, consistent committed anti-drug programme.

The potential rewards are enormous. Imagine helping a generation of addicts back into society so that they can once again make a contribution to their communities. Imagine tackling one of the root causes of violent crime. Imagine passing on to our children a safer, more secure society than the one we have inherited.

It's an ambition worth fighting for. David will now set out our action plan on violent crime."

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