In an effort to seize the initiative on law and order before next month's Tory party conference, the Prime Minister exchanged last year's backfiring 'Back to Basics' catchphrase for a call for an 'anti- yob culture', while insisting there was 'no question' of legalising any drug.
But his attempt to counter Tony Blair's 'tough on crime, tough on the causes' stance was condemned as rhetoric that contained only one new idea and merely summarised existing schemes - all of which had already been publicised.
Andrew Puddephatt, general secretary of the civil rights group Liberty, said: 'This speech is the annual hot-air rhetoric on law and order which is made before every Conservative conference - it's rather like waiting to hear the first cuckoo of spring.' It was also swiftly derided by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who reminded Mr Major that the Government had hitherto rejected calls for crime prevention partnerships and a strategy against drugs and drug- related crime, while cutting compensation for crime victims and failing to promise a single new police officer.
Mr Major conceded in the speech to the Social Market Foundation, the centrist think-tank, that the fear of crime was greater than he could ever remember, but said resources alone would not solve the problem: 'Let us . . . make a real national effort to build an 'anti-yob culture'. . . We must build a huge national partnership against the criminal - in every city and county, every workplace, every school, every home.'
Under the Partnership Initiative, to be launched later this month, the whole community would join forces to tackle crime. Mr Major said the Government would consider 'very carefully' the value of identity cards. A Green Paper on community sentencing would insist that non-custodial sentences were 'tough and demanding', he said.
In a reflection of existing Labour policy, Mr Major said the results of the review of drugs policy to be published in the autumn by Tony Newton, Leader of the Commons, would include a three-year action plan and a new drugs strategy, a new emphasis on education and prevention, better treatment for addicts and a 'major blitz' on the supply of drugs to prisons.
Mr Major said he wanted 'far more done' to make crime victims feel comfortable in court and to keep them informed of progress and 'above all let them know and why a case is dropped'. He made no promise of legislative guarantees, however.Reuse content