Politicians must "stop posturing about penalties" and concentrate on catching criminals by putting more police on the streets, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said today.
In a keynote conference speech, Mr Huhne accused both the Tories and Labour of introducing "ineffective or even counter-productive" crime prevention measures.
"Labour and the Tories are addicted to punishment posturing and that means legislative diarrhoea as a substitute for enforcing the law that we have," he said.
"If we want to cut crime, we should stop posturing about penalties because they are tough enough.
"The answer's simple - catch criminals to cut crime.
"Yet, Labour, like the Tories, has done the opposite of what works. The average prison sentence has gone up... Meanwhile, the key factor that does work - the detection rate for crime - has fallen by nearly a fifth since the end of the 1980s."
He said that if the prison population was the same as when crime peaked in 1996, there would be enough cash for 25,000 extra police.
"If the ID card scheme were scrapped, we could hire a further 10,000 police. That's 35,000 extra police officers - a quarter extra - on the streets catching criminals and cutting crime."
Departing from his departmental responsibilities, Mr Huhne launched a fierce attack on the Tories - dubbing them a party with "no heart, no core values and no direction".
He said: "David Cameron, like Tony Blair, wants to be all things to all people. George Osborne (the shadow chancellor) will go fair when George Bush goes green. Fairness will be a Tory value when hell freezes over."
To a standing ovation, he said the Tory party was about "ducking hard decisions" and only the Liberal Democrats were committed to the environment, civil liberties, fairness and the rule of law.Reuse content