Howard pledges "less talk, more action"

An incoming Conservative government would make a "war on crime" the centrepiece of its plans to make Britain a country envied around the world, Conservative leader Michael Howard has pledged.

In his address to the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Howard also laid out plans for new action against drug abuse, toughened discipline in schools, and radical measures to control abuse of the asylum system.

Mr Howard signalled a determination to take powers back from Brussels. He promised that on its first day in power a Conservative government would set the date for the referendum on the European Constitution - Conservatives want the British people to reject the document.

Mr Howard reassured his audience that: "When I can, I will cut taxes." On crime, He pledged: "The first problem I'll get a grip on is crime. The gloves will come off." He promised to copy across to Britain the 'zero tolerance' approach to crime pioneered in New York. "What Giuliani did in New York, what Ray Mallon did in Middlesbrough, we'll do for the whole of Britain. A war on crime."

Mr Howard continued: "We need a government that will stand up for the silent, law abiding majority who play by the rules and pay their dues. A government that will put their rights first. Career criminals and dangerous offenders should be in prison - not roaming our streets. So we will build more prisons."

Mr Howard told the party faithful: "Three weeks ago, on a Saturday night, I went out on the streets of Brixton with people from local churches. I saw the problems their community is up against. In two hours we didn't meet a single policeman. Not one. This was inner city London, just before midnight, on a Saturday night. No wonder people feel the police have become distant and remote."

He added: "People are fed up that when the police do catch criminals the punishment never seems to fit the crime. Under a new Labour law, shoplifters will only get a fixed penalty fine and no criminal record. Theft is now no worse than parking on a yellow line. I promise you I'm not making this up. And five years ago, Labour introduced an early release scheme. Since then 3,600 crimes - including rape - have been committed by criminals let out of prison early. Every one of those crimes could have been prevented. All this has to change.

"Day One: That form police officers will have to fill in every time they stop someone, that form will go into the appropriate filing tray - the bin. Week One: Labour's early release scheme - that will go. Month One: We'll start to recruit 5,000 more police officers a year."


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