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Hague: Labour are soft on crime

There are few things more important to the quality of our lives or the stability of our society than winning the fight against crime. Whether we are young or old, whether we live in towns and cities or the countryside, we all want to protect ourselves and our families and the things we have worked hard for.

Across all ages and all walks of life we want to feel safe in our own homes and we want to be safe when we walk down the street. The desire to beat crime unites the people of this country as few other issues do.

In a moment, Ann Widdecombe will take you through the details of the current Government's record on crime and how the next Conservative Government will improve on it. But first I want to issue this warning.

Today, in Britain, we are on the brink of 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. And our prisons have empty spaces because this Government lets thousands of convicted criminals out early so that they are free to commit new offences.

So much for Tony Blair's famous boast that he would be 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. Labour are soft on crime, and in just four years the results are plain for everyone to see.

Violent crime has gone up by 8% and robberies by 21% in the last year. Only 1 in 5 people are happy with the level of policing on our streets. The Chairman of the Police Federation describes policing as 'a public service in crisis' and says that 'morale is the worst I have ever seen it.'

And what does all this mean in human terms?

It means inner city estates where drug dealing and vandalism are rife, where decent people and their property are under constant attack. Where those who can get out, flee at the first opportunity, while those who remain are robbed of hope.

It means isolated rural areas where people feel so vulnerable that they seek to protect themselves and their homes against criminals, but don't believe the law will be on their side if they do so.

It means the children I met at a school in Vauxhall last year pleading with me for the police to use their stop and search powers properly, because they now feel more at risk from members of their own community.

This is what having a Prime Minister who is all spin and no delivery really amounts to. He has admitted as much himself. Last year 'TB' owned up to being 'perceived as soft' on crime and asked that he be 'personally associated' with 'eye-catching initiatives'. Only yesterday, Jack Straw's special adviser said that their new crime plan 'doesn't look very impressive'.

So when Tony Blair and Jack Straw offer their 10 year strategy for crime today, they hope the public will fail to take their previous record into account. But people are tired of all the talk and all the photo opportunities. They want to know how this country is going to win the fight against crime. I will tell them.

The next Conservative Government will put more police on our streets. We will make sure these police have more time to catch criminals and when those criminals have been convicted they will serve the sentences they are given.

That is the choice facing voters at the next Election, between a Conservative Party that will make Britain safer and a Labour Party which is soft on crime. Their judgement cannot come soon enough.

I will now hand you over to Ann Widdecombe.

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