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Miss Widdecombe: It involved a very large number of people who are concerned to eliminate the scourge of drugs from society. Is there a single measure in the Queen's Speech to attack the scourge of supply and demand of drugs? No, there is not. If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about sensible measures to tackle that problem, he need not look to the Labour party, because it simply does not have the answers.
Ms Hazel Blears (Salford): If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is dilatory in his alleged failure to legislate, what was wrong with introducing such measures during 18 years of Conservative Government, when there was a complete failure to address the issues and to protect the communities that suffer from those serious organised criminals?
Miss Widdecombe: The hon. Lady cannot have been following the debate too closely. We introduced legislation on the confiscation of drug dealers' assets when we were in government. It is not an invention of the right hon. Gentleman. He has merely failed to follow it
Mrs. Roche: Will the right hon. Lady confirm that legislation on the proceeds of crime which was introduced in the previous Parliament was, in fact, a private Member's Bill, and was wholeheartedly supported by Labour? It was not introduced in Government time.
Before that entirely futile interruption, I was asking why the Home Secretary was, to use the word of the hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears), dilatory. I did not say anything so harsh; I asked why he was dithering. If he is so attracted to early release, why does he not release some of his legislation early? He has found time for a totally unnecessary Bill on trial by jury, to which he has not previously committed himself, but not for a Bill to confiscate criminal assets, to which he has committed himself time and again.
What has the right hon. Gentleman to offer? There is no Bill to end the crisis in policing--just further burdens on the patrolling officer. There is no Bill to tackle last year's rise in sexual offences; no Bill to enhance the rights of victims in the justice system; no measure to make prisons more purposeful; no Bill to make sentences more transparent. Does that not show that his priorities lie not in effective action, but in headline-grabbing announcements in an attempt to salvage his long-gone reputation for being tough on crime?
Miss Widdecombe: I want to tackle the right hon. Gentleman first. When I said that people had suffered from the decline in police numbers, he shook his head. Does he dispute that? If he does, I shall give way to listen to him. He does not dispute it; he denies that people have suffered from the decline in police numbers.
The public lived through the massive rise in crime last year. They do not understand--it is as simple as that--the Home Secretary's decision to release nearly 27,000 prisoners from jail early to offend again.
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): My right hon. Friend was with me when I talked to the chief constable of Dorset. Is it not a plain fact that it does not matter how much legislation this place passes if the police do not have enough people on the ground or enough resources? They have no overtime budget, so they cannot take special measures. Crime is going up while police resources are being kept unacceptably low.
Miss Widdecombe: My hon. Friend speaks correctly for his constituents and for those of many other hon. Members, including those of Labour Members who are unwilling to admit the facts and who cheer in derision when we claim that people have suffered from more crime. If those hon. Members think that the real world does not consist of rising crime, they do not live in it.
The public want action to tackle the rise in crime through effective sentencing and through an increase in police officers. They want action to ensure that prisoners serve the sentences given to them by the court. We are committed to such action. The Prime Minister describes that as "nonsense". Nothing better encapsulates how completely out of touch this Government are.
Mr. Straw: As the right hon. Lady has got on to the issue of resources, will she clear up a certain amount of confusion between her and the shadow Chancellor, who has gone out of his way to say that there would be protection for resources allocated to health and education? Regarding the Home Office, he has said that money allocated to asylum and immigration would have to be additional and that savings would therefore be made elsewhere in the Home Office. Those savings could come only from the probation service, the Prison Service or the police. Which service would they come from?
Miss Widdecombe: The right hon. Gentleman can do better than that if he puts his mind to it. It is only three years since we funded 3,000 more police officers than the right hon. Gentleman is funding at the moment. If it was possible to do that then, it is possible to do it in the future. We had a record prison building programme, which we could afford. If it was possible to do that then, it is