Blair's 'frenzied law making' : a new offence for every day spent in office

Tony Blair's government has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences during its nine-year tenure, one for almost every day it has been in power.

The astonishing tally brought accusations last night of a "frenzied approach to law-making" that contrasts with falling detection rates and climbing levels of violent crime.

The figures emerged as police chiefs disclosed they were considering asking ministers for a set of new measures to allow them to impose "instant justice" for antisocial behaviour.

The 3,000-plus offences have been driven on to the statute book by an administration that has faced repeated charges of meddling in the everyday lives of citizens, from restricting freedom of speech to planning to issue identity cards to all adults.

In total, the Government has brought in 3,023 offences since May 1997. They comprise 1,169 introduced by primary legislation - debated in Parliament - and 1,854 by secondary legislation such as statutory instruments and orders in council.

Remarkably, Labour is creating offences at twice the rate of the previous Tory administration. During its last nine years in office, under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, fewer than 500 new crimes reached the statute book via primary legislation.

And the rate at which offences are being created is accelerating the longer that Tony Blair remains in Downing Street. In 1998, Labour's first full year in power, 160 new offences passed into legislation, rising to 346 in 2000 and 527 in 2005.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, who uncovered the figures, said: "Nothing can justify the step change in the number of criminal offences invented by this Government. This provides a devastating insight into the real legacy of nine years of New Labour government - a frenzied approach to law-making, thousands of new offences, an illiberal belief in heavy-handed regulation, an obsession with controlling the minutiae of everyday life.

"The result? A country less free than before, and a marked erosion of the trust which should exist between the Government and the governed."

He said ministers had failed to grasp the simple truth that "weighing down the statute book" with new laws was "no substitute for good government".

Many offences are uncontroversial and will have widespread support, such as tougher penalties for selling contaminated food or against violent crime. But the Government has still managed to produce a surreal list of new offences.

It is now illegal to sell grey squirrels, impersonate a traffic warden or offer Air Traffic Control services without a licence. Creating a nuclear explosion was outlawed in 1998.

Householders who fail to nominate a neighbour to turn off their alarm while they are away from home can be breaking the law. And it is an offence for a ship's captain to be carrying grain unless he has a copy of the International Grain Code on board.

The Home Office, which has produced 60 Bills over a hyperactive nine-year period, is responsible for 430 of the new offences.

The flood of Bills compares with one criminal justice Bill per decade for much of the 20th century and has brought pleas for a period of calm from the department.

Terry Grange, Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys, has accused the past two home secretaries, Charles Clarke and John Reid, of making policies "on the hoof" in response to media pressure over serious crime problems, foreign offenders and the immigration service.

Lord Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons, has urged Tony Blair to "shut up" for the sake of stability in the criminal system.

Almost every other part of Whitehall has also found things to outlaw. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has brought in 640 new offences, the vast majority through secondary legislation. The Department for Trade and Industry has produced another 592, and the Foreign Office and the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister 277 each.

Each addition swells the enormous number of offences already on the statute book, some dating back to medieval times. Even the Attorney General's office said it had no idea how many existed. A spokeswoman said: "There are thousands and thousands."

Downing Street argued last night that much of the legislation it had inherited needed to be updated. A spokesman said: "Crime has fallen by 35 per cent since Labour came to power precisely because we have given the police and criminal justice system the modern laws they have asked for to tackle crime effectively.

"Among the offences we've modernised are new laws to tackle sex offences, domestic violence, antisocial behaviour and knife and gun crime. Are the Liberal Democrats saying these were a mistake?"

Mr Blair has made clear that he favours an extension of summary justice, and fresh proposals are expected in the autumn.

The Association of Chief Police Officers disclosed yesterday that it was considering asking ministers for powers of instant justice, including the authority to exclude unruly youngsters from town centres and to break up teenage gangs.

Condemning the idea, David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "We cannot bypass the court system. It is up to the justice system to scrutinise and take judicial decisions, not the police."

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of human rights group Liberty, said the figures demonstrated that politicians were becoming "addicted to law making". She said: "The next time the cry goes up to legislate our way out of a crisis, a deep breath from the Home Office might just be more inspiring than further statutory graffiti."

Enver Solomon, deputy director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, said: "It has become a New Labour trademark to criminalise a range of social harms which would be more effectively dealt with away from the clutches of the criminal justice agencies."

Twenty activities outlawed by Labour

Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998

Causing a nuclear explosion.

Scallop Fishing Order 2004

If a boat breaches the restrictions in articles 3, 4 or 5, the master, owner and charterer are each guilty of an offence.

Measuring Instruments (Automatic Rail-weighbridges) Regulations 2006

A person shall be guilty of an offence if he uses for trade an automatic rail-weighbridge to which there is affixed a disqualification sticker.

Scotland Act 1998 (Border Rivers) Order 1999

Unauthorised fishing in the Lower Esk.

Apple and Pear Orchard Grubbing Up Regulations 1998

Any person who (a) intentionally obstructs an authorised person in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by regulation 10 above, or a person accompanying him and acting under his instructions or (b) without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a requirement under regulation 10 above, shall be guilty of an offence.

Protection of Wrecks (RMS Titanic) Order 2003

A person shall not enter the hull of the Titanic without permission from the Secretary of State.

Merchant Shipping (Crew Accommodation) Regulations 1997

Failure to provide adequate facilities for crew members.

Transport Act 2003

A person commits an offence if he provides air traffic services in respect of a managed area.

Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004

No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.

Learning and Skills Act 2000

Obstructing an inspection by the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

Care Standards Act 2000

Obstructing the work of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001

Knowingly etc selling plates which are not vehicle registration plates.

London Underground (East London Line Extension) (No 2) Order 2001

Any person who, without reasonable excuse, obstructs any person acting under the authority of the Company in setting out the lines of the scheduled works, or in constructing any authorised work or who interferes with, moves or removes any apparatus belonging to any such person shall be guilty of an offence.

Courts Act 2003

Assaulting and obstructing court security officers.

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

Part seven of the Act created offences of failing to nominate a key-holder where an audible intruder alarm is present.

Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002

If any officer appointed in accordance with regulation 30(1) reports to the master or other officer in charge of the bridge a door to be closed and locked when it is not in fact closed and locked he shall be guilty of an offence.

Bus Lane Contraventions (Penalty Charges, Adjudication and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2005

Failing without reasonable excuse to attend a hearing held by an adjudicator, or to produce any document to an adjudicator.

Vehicle Excise Duty (Immobilisation, Removal and Disposal of Vehicles) Regulations 1997

Failure to rigorously separate the accounts of ground-handling activities from the accounts of other activities in accordance with current commercial practice.

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

In relation to certain invasive non-native species such as the grey squirrel, ruddy duck or Japanese knotweed, selling any animal or plant, or eggs or seeds.

News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal