Party Conference Speech 2004
David Davis, 06/10/2004
As Conservatives we have a clear idea of what constitutes good government.
And the very first duty of government is to uphold the law and to make the citizens secure.
Labour just can't grasp that.
Their priorities are all wrong.
They permit what shouldn't be legal;
they ban what shouldn't be banned;
and they allow hardened criminals to flourish.
When it comes to controlling the honest citizen, they're enthusiastic for any and every means of control:
speed cameras, ID cards, trials without juries - they love all that.
But they won't build the prisons to keep criminals in and keep you safe.
That's the difference between us and them.
Conservative policies for law and order aren't about putting Big Brother in Charge.
They're about putting the citizen in charge.
But the citizen today is frightened, angry and restless.
We shall act to change that, and only the Conservatives have the will or the guts to do it.
Record in Government
Today I want to talk about Labour's record on law and order.
There's been lots of activity: 37 Acts of Parliament, 160 'initiatives'; and 350 new regulations.
But where has it all led?
Britain has a million hard drug addicts for the first time ever.
A million violent crimes each year for the first time ever.
And a million more unsolved crimes than when Labour took power. A million.
Cocaine use up 3 times
Sex offences up
Gun crimes doubled
Persistent youth offending up
Street crime and drug crime out of control
And an asylum and immigration system in chaos.
And its no wonder when we have a home secretary more concerned about getting headlines than catching criminals.
And we mustn't forget the Lib Dems.
Did anyone watch their conference?
I haven't enjoyed myself so much for a very long time.
Their latest big idea on law and order was -
wait for it -
to send young joyriders go karting.
And for car thieves, lessons in mechanics.
Alton Towers for young offenders.
Only a party that lives in Disneyland could dream that one up.
At least we now know the truth about tough liberalism.
It is an oxymoron - with the emphasis on the last two syllables.
Drugs and violence
Before turning to the police and prisons, I want to talk about an issue that is deadly and serious.
A problem that tears at the bonds of families and of communities.
A scourge that destroys respect and ruins lives.
And increasingly the government stands aside from it.
I could give you a horrifying ream of statistics but they can never reveal the reality of how its victims suffer.
Instead I want to tell you a story I read recently.
It is a tragic story of a young girl, of her boyfriend and of their new-born baby daughter.
The baby was just 5 days old when she died, poisoned by Heroin.
She had never been held by either parent.
Her father overdosed on drugs and died shortly after.
Her mother's overdose didn't actually kill her.
But it left her brain-damaged, lost in a coma.
It's not just the appalling human tragedy that makes this story different.
It was something else - the comments made by the Coroner.
He asked: "How can anyone listening to the cases today seriously advocate the use of drugs by young and immature people?"
Some people say that we've lost the war on drugs.
I say we haven't begun to fight it.
Fighting it will be my top priority.
We will step up the battle against hard drugs.
We've already pledged a ten-fold increase in the number of residential rehabilitation places - providing treatment for every young hard-drug addict in the country.
Under the next Conservative Government addicts will face a choice: rehabilitation, or the criminal justice system.
Residential rehabilitation is no soft option.
It will be under court supervision - and failure will mean prison.
This has worked in America, and with the right powers, it can work here too.
The public is protected.
The addict is encouraged to go straight - And stay straight.
If nothing is done we will face a drugs epidemic, with terrible effects on our whole society.
The Sun newspaper recently ran a survey on teenage behaviour.
It found that nearly 100,000 children aged between 13 and 15 had used cocaine.
That's enough children to fill 100 secondary schools.
That's why we'll support, encourage and accelerate the implementation of random drug testing in schools.
Children need to know that it is not cool to use drugs: it's stupid, it's illegal, and it's dangerous.
I make no apology for taking a hard line on drugs.
They destroy lives, destroy society and render all our efforts to reduce crime worthless.
The drug culture spawns the gun culture; and both help create the culture of violence.
Today, parts of Britain are virtual no-go areas.
Towns and cities - once peaceful - now overrun with gangs toting guns.
And, in the middle, are decent, hard-working people whose lives are ruined - like someone I'm going to introduce to you now.
Until recently, he was looking forward to seeing out his working life and then to a happy retirement with his wife.
A year ago, all that changed.
This video will upset us, but it should also make us angry.
Angry for Victor Bates and the thousands like him whose lives have been ruined.
Angry for the law-abiding majority who so often live in fear.
And angry with this Labour Government for giving up the war on drugs, backing out of the fight against crime and showing weakness when they promised to be tough.
I would like to make a promise to you and to Victor.
I cannot pledge that such horrors will never occur under a Conservative Government.
But I can and I do promise that we will never give up on the war against crime and the war against drugs.
Today thousands of our fellow countrymen are afraid -
afraid to stay in their homes, afraid to leave them;
afraid to summon help, afraid not to;
afraid to barricade their doors, afraid to be trapped behind them.
But in Conservative Britain I want the criminals to be afraid -
afraid of being caught and afraid of being punished.
There's a simple reason why Rudi Guiliani made New York a safer City than London.
Why Ray Mallon has cut crime time and again in Middlesbrough.
It's because they decided not to tolerate crime any more.
They were locally elected officials who listened to the people and gave them what they wanted.
Zero tolerance of crime. Zero tolerance of failure to act on crime.
We'll give people the right to choose who will run their local police force.
And to determine the priorities they want their police to follow.
But zero tolerance policing demands more police.
A lot more police.
And I mean real police.
This Government has responded by recruiting 25,000 people who can't arrest anyone.
We will respond by recruiting 40,000 police officers who can.
And we have to ensure that those police, like all our police, are used properly.
They mustn't be diverted to tasks determined by political correctness.
They mustn't be employed to carry out by proxy the Labour Party's war against the motorist or the countryman.
And they mustn't be impeded by the deadweight of regulation that this Labour Government has imposed.
Our alternative is clear: the next Conservative government will set the police free to cut crime.
There will be no more national targets, no more ring-fenced funding, Whitehall priorities.
Just good, traditional policing.
Deterring crime and catching criminals.
That's what the public wants.
Catching criminals is no good if you don't punish them.
But Britain's prisons are already full.
The Home Office predicts a prison population of around 100,000 at the end of the decade - but are only planning spaces for 80,000.
As a result of this failure of planning we'll now see every underhand device possible to let people out of prison early or prevent them from being sent there in the first place.
David Blunkett's latest idea is weekend prison.
The trouble is, of course, that we don't have weekend criminals.
They're at it all day, all week, all the year round.
That's why they need to be locked up - all day, all week, all the year round.
Prison does work.
It is a deterrent.
Criminals fear it.
And it takes criminals out of circulation - while they are locked up, they cannot commit crimes.
Half of all crimes in Britain are committed by the same 100,000 persistent criminals.
But at any one time, just 15,000 of these are actually in jail.
Leaving 85,000 serious criminals out roaming your streets, out burgling your homes, out robbing your friends.
But rather than build more prisons, this Government have been letting prisoners out early. Tagged.
As Michael Howard told you yesterday, this means 3,600 unnecessary crimes; 3,600 unnecessary victims.
Electronic tagging has its place.
But a prison without bars is not a prison.
Tagging should be used as an addition to prison, not as an alternative.
Our policy is not to lock people up and throw away the key.
It's important for them and society that they come out better not worse than they went in.
And they can sometimes reform, if we get the framework and the programmes right.
But one thing is clear: if prisons are overcrowded, prisoners are just shuffled around the system to make room, and they end up never finishing a retraining course.
So they end up on the street, without skills, unable to read, often addicted to drugs, with no prospect of work.
And they go straight back to crime.
The Conservative programme of prison building and our drug rehabilitation programme gives us an opportunity to cut the vicious cycle of re-offending.
Our criminal justice system is in crisis.
We will solve this crisis.
By scrapping Labour's early release scheme;
By increasing the proportion of the prison budget that is spent on education and rehabilitation;
And by starting a prison building programme that will allow judges to send prisoners down for the sentence they deserve.
A sentence designed to fit the crime, not the number of prison cells available.
We'll start this in the first month and complete it in the first term of a Conservative Government.
We will make Britain more secure and bring down crime.
It can be done.
It must be done.
It will be done.
As Michael Howard reminded us yesterday, the Home Secretary says he sees no "obvious limit" to legal immigration.
And as for the number of illegal immigrants already here: well he confesses he "hasn't a clue".
Clueless, chaotic and potentially catastrophic - three words summing up this Government's immigration policy.
Since Labour came to power, immigration has soared.
It is running at three times its previous level - and that's not counting illegal immigrants.
Immigration alone could fill six new cities the size of Birmingham over the next three decades.
The Government says that it doesn't know if this level of immigration is too much or too little.
Well let me tell them. It is too much, far too much, and we must do something about it.
Let me make it clear, we will never diminish the contribution that immigrants make:
we welcome and we value it.
Britain is better for all the immigrants over the centuries who have worked hard to make this their home.
But respect for past immigrants doesn't mean backing away from our duty now.
But Britain is already the most densely populated major country in Europe.
And the immigration we receive isn't evenly distributed - it goes to our most overcrowded areas.
It puts a burden on housing, health, schools and other public services, and it does so where that burden is already heaviest to bear.
A Conservative government will substantially cut immigration into Britain.
Uncontrolled immigration endangers the values that we in Britain rightly treasure.
We Conservatives understand how vital it is not to threaten what makes this country so tolerant, so decent, so respectful of other people's rights - and, yes, so welcoming of people who come here.
Extremist political parties are hoping to batten on the fears and resentments that already exist.
So the next Conservative Government will act.
We will tightly control immigration because the country requires it.
I don't blame people for wanting to come to Britain to find a better life.
What I blame is the system that lures them - and then leaves them - here.
The shabby trade in illegal immigration is run by criminals; and those who work illegally in Britain easily become their victims.
For that reason too, we must act to secure the future - including the future of our settled immigrant populations - before it is too late.
And we will act in several ways.
We will curb illegal immigration by re-introducing embarkation controls - physically checking people in, and physically checking them out again.
We will also push ahead with reforms to our asylum system, with a system of overseas processing.
We will reform the system of work permits, which is currently being abused.
Above all, we shall lay down a clear annual limit to the level of total immigration.
And we'll see it isn't breached.
This will reassure people about their future.
And it will sweep away, once and for all, the web of distortion and deceit that poisons this debate.
I make no apologies for talking about immigration.
It is an issue of real public concern.
It will be a central issue at the next election.
And have no doubt: if the legitimate parties don't discuss it, the real danger is that extremists will.
We will not give them that opportunity.
Efficient immigration controls are a crucial part of the war against terror.
The Conservative Party will never flinch in that war.
We've been fighting it since before the phrase was invented.
Twenty years ago, in Brighton some dear friends died in that war.
We shall never forget them.
We treat terrorism seriously.
The terrorist threat is more important than party advantage.
And today that threat is greater than it has ever been.
So I support much of what the Government has done to deal with terrorism.
I shall continue to do so.
But I will remind the Home Secretary of this - he is not just protecting our lives, he is protecting our way of life - and that includes our ancient British liberties: the presumption of innocence, the right to trial by jury, habeas corpus.
And he should not erode these unless he has exhausted every other possibility.
And we should remember this.
This new brand of terrorist, heartless and evil as they are, are no more representative of Islam than IRA terrorists were representative of Catholicism.
We are fortunate in having many good, moderate Muslim leaders in this country, who espouse and promote peace.
I salute their courage.
The terrorists are as much of a threat to them as they are to the rest of us.
But those who abuse our open society, our free press, our tolerance, to foment hatred and divisions, to promote vicious doctrines and give encouragement to terrorists - against those we should deploy the full arsenal of our law and our forces.
Try it on
People today often bemoan what's happened to society.
The disorder, the general lack of respect and civility.
What government can do about it is limited.
Yet government should help not hinder.
It can introduce good laws and ensure they're enforced by effective policing.
It can provide the resources to keep dangerous men locked up, not preying on our neighbourhoods.
It can control the country's borders, and it can keep out or throw out those who wish our nation ill.
On all these things, this Labour Government is failing - and its failure is dragging our whole society down.
In Britain today, there's a silent struggle.
It's between the decent, respectable, law abiding citizen, who wants to look after his own, and pay his dues, and get on with his life.
And on the other side there's a noisy minority that cares nothing for anyone - people who respect only force.
How do you think that predatory minority feels now?
What signals do you think they get from our criminal justice system today?
I'll tell you the message that goes out: Fancy committing a crime?
Go on, try it. Under Labour you're not likely to get caught.
Want to move to Britain but can't be bothered to go through the proper channels?
Go on, try it. Come and claim asylum that you don't deserve. Under Labour there's only a one in five chance of being sent home.
Fancy selling alcohol to minors, mugging an old lady, nicking something from the shops, dealing drugs, or spray-painting your name all over the place?
Well, go ahead - try it. Under Labour out of 100 crimes committed, only 3 result in a conviction.
In Tony Blair's Britain, more and more people see the decent majority as another soft touch.
They're bending the rules; they're trying it on; they're flouting the law.
That's the reality of Britain under Labour - and it's time to bring it to an end.
It's time to regain control, end political correctness, cut red tape, enforce the law and send a clear and consistent message - we're not going to be pushed around any more.
We need a change of culture. A return to the values of decency, discipline and respect.
For that we need a change of Government.
One that doesn't just talk tough, but one that is tough.
A Conservative Government.