Blair chairs Downing Street summit on street crime

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Indy Politics

Home Secretary David Blunkett and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens today emerged from a Downing Street summit on street crime in a show of solidarity after weeks of tension between the Home Office and police.

Both heralded the first session of a special cross–Government action group as a success and said ideas will be taken forward in a bid to crack down on spiralling numbers of street robberies.

Mr Blunkett recently warned Sir John to cut robberies significantly within six months or suffer the humiliation of Home Office managers being sent in to take over at Scotland Yard.

Sir John responded with a speech earlier this month in which he said the public were at the mercy of a failing criminal justice system which repeatedly let robbers off the hook.

Outside Number 10 after today's meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Blunkett said: "We have had an excellent meeting.

"We have been looking at how each element can have a part in more effective law enforcement and that those committing crime get their just deserts.

"We have agreed to meet again next week when each element will report back on the changes that we have asked them to make – using, for instance, the idea that at the moment someone's arrested they are charged, to whether we can get them into remand and custody rather than back on the streets again."

Sir John said he was extremely positive about today's two–hour summit.

"We certainly, from a police point of view, have never had such an important meeting, such a successful meeting," he said.

"This is political support from the very highest levels.

"We have looked at where we, the police, can actually reform and where the other parts of the criminal justice system can reform.

"With all the secretaries of state there it has been an incredibly successful meeting and I believe that a lot will come of it."

Mr Blunkett said costings had been discussed, but added: "This was not about bouncing anyone into decisions on resources today."

The Home Secretary denied that he faces a battle to persuade the Chancellor to give him large sums for crimefighting in the forthcoming spending review in preference to other departments of state.

"There is no adversarial, gladiatorial approach to this. We're not in contest with each other for resources," he said.

"This was a demonstration of the whole of Government backing one of the problems which affects our communities.

"We should put aside the notion that there's a contest between major players and some sort of gladiatorial contest with winners and losers.

"The only losers if we don't resource what we're talking about today will be the British people, nor Gordon Brown, myself or any other secretary of state."

The tension between Sir John and the Home Secretary reflects widespread concern among top officers over Mr Blunkett's proposals to grant himself unprecedented new powers over chief constables in his Police Reform Bill.

He is also facing a high–profile row with rank–and–file police officers over pay, with 10,000 turning out to protest in Westminster last week.

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