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Hague: Labour soft on crime? Guilty as charged

In a speech at Conservative Central Office highlighting Labour's failures on crime, the Rt Hon William Hague, Leader of the Conservative Party:

"Few issues matter more to the quality of our lives or to the stability of our society than winning the fight against crime.

Today, Britain is losing that fight.

The desire to protect ourselves and our families and things we have worked hard for unites us all whether we are young or old, whether we live in towns and cities or in the countryside.

People of all ages and across all walks of life want to feel safe in their own homes and safe as they walk down the street.

And yet increasingly as I go round the country I hear people who say that nothing can be done about crime. That living in a more violent society is somehow inevitable.

It is not difficult to see why. Violent crime has gone up by 8% and robberies by 21% in the past year. Only 1 in 5 people are happy with the level of policing on our streets. And the Chairman of the Police Federation describes policing as 'a public service in crisis' and says morale is the worst he has ever seen it.

Britain is losing the war against crime.

Our police stand depleted and demoralised.

Our criminal justice system puts the rights of criminals before those of their victims.

Our streets feel less safe because thousands of convicted criminals have been let out early by this Government so that they are free to commit more crime.

Since January 1999, Labour have let out 35,000 convicted criminals before they have even served half of their sentences.

These are not petty crooks. They include 41 sex offenders, 8 attempted murderers, more than 3,000 burglars, nearly 5,000 people convicted of drug dealing and drug trafficking and as many again convicted wounding or causing grievous and actual bodily harm.

Between them these criminals have committed more than 1,000 further crimes.

Crimes they could not have committed were it not for the fact that they were out on our streets on Labour's special early release scheme.

Crimes which have changed their victims' lives and in some cases ruined them. Violent assaults, theft and burglary, drug crimes, and even two cases of rape.

You may have seen our Election broadcast last night, I know that many who have watched it will have been shocked by what they saw. I make no apology for that.

Give Labour a second chance and at the current rate 80,000 more criminals would be let out early including 10,000 more drug dealers, 10,000 more robbers and burglars and 10,000 more people convicted of violent crime.

They will not get that chance under a Conservative Government. We will end Labour's special early release scheme. There will be no get out of jail early card when Ann Widdecombe is Home Secretary.

We will reverse the legacy of four years of Labour. Four years of a Prime Minister who boasted that he would be 'tough on crime'.

A legacy of inner city estates where vandalism and drug dealing are rife, where law-abiding people and their property are constantly under threat. Where those who can get out take the first chance to do so, leaving those behind robbed of hope.

A legacy of isolated rural areas where people feel so vulnerable that they seek to protect themselves and their property against criminals, but wonder whether the law will be on their side if they do.

A legacy of the children I met last year in Vauxhall who pleaded with me for the police to use their stop and search powers fully because they now feel more at risk from members of their own community.

Well I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way and under the next Conservative Government it will all be very different for criminals and the law-abiding alike.

We will reverse Labour's cuts in police numbers and make sure the police we do have spend more time patrolling our streets and catching criminals rather than being tied to their desks.

Once they are caught and convicted, we will make prisoners work a full day in jobs that pay so that inmates can learn about responsibility and compensate their victims.

And we will clamp down on the vandalism, graffiti and anti-social behaviour, that provide the breeding ground for more serious crimes and do so much to diminish our neighbourhoods.

So when people say that nothing can be done about crime. I say they are wrong. Not all parties are the same.

What Britain needs is a government with the political will to win the war against crime.

A government that will stand up for decent, hardworking families.

A government that will protect the vulnerable.

A government that will defend people and their property against those with no respect for others and their values.

A Conservative Government."

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