Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Social Market Foundation, held in London on Friday 9th September 1994.
Robert, simply to put your mind at rest, yes I have certainly used the phrase "social market economy", but as you rightly say that is not the subject of the remarks I wish to make to you today.
Over the last few years one thing that has become absolutely constant in the minds of most of the electorate that I talk to is their concern over crime, not just in the last year or two, but certainly throughout the 15 years that I have been a Member of Parliament, and I suspect for many years before that, it ebbs and flows in the depth and strength of concern, but it is a consistent concern and I think it is easy to see precisely why that should be.
We all have ambitions for ourselves, for our neighbours, for communities, we would like them to be safe, to be secure, to be prosperous, like them to be free of crime and safe for the vulnerable and for children.
It is for that reason that since 1990 I have sought to keep the fight against crime high on the government's list of priorities. Four years now have passed. I would like to take the opportunity today to take stock of the progress we have made and set out perhaps some of our plans for the future.
Many of the strands of policy that we have developed since 1990 are now beginning to come together. It is a fallacy that you set out a policy one day and a thing emerges in completely mature form within a matter of the next few weeks, so often that is not the case. I believe now that we are beginning to see a series of events coming together that will have a material effect, a beneficial effect, in the general community fight against the level of criminality we all face.
I have never accepted, as some occasionally appear to do, that increasing crime figures are an inescapable feature of modern life. And I believe today we can begin to feel a little more optimistic, though certainly not complacent. Events are showing that we can turn the tide against crime, we can begin to have confidence in what too often has been a province of despair.
We should of course keep a sense of proportion. Of course there are appalling crimes which seize the headlines and shake the national consciousness. But overall this is a safer country than most, more civilised and more secure. And yet despite that, when I talk to people I sense that the fear of crime is greater than I personally can remember and my message today to those people is that we can beat crime.
The fact is that recorded crime actually fell last year, the falling number of insurance claims for thefts and burglaries begins to say the same story. Many Police Chiefs are now more optimistic that this hopeful trend will continue. And when we put that in an historical context, that trend is all the more striking because crimes of all sorts have been rising steadily since the 1950s, in times of boom, in times of slump, they have been steadily rising. And not just here but in other countries across Europe as well. So although we have to treat the encouraging figures we have seen with caution, I think we are right to be encouraged by them because there are other encouraging signs as well.
Throughout the 1980s we put substantial extra resources into fighting crime. The largest prison building programme since Victorian times has seen 21 prisons open since 1985; we have recruited more police; we have rewarded police officers more generously for the work that they do; we now have record staffing levels in police forces and we must keep it that way and use those record staffing levels to best effect. That investment in the 1980s was costly, but undoubtedly it was right and I believe we can be grateful for it today.
And yet with all that effort crime went on rising, resources alone could not deal with the problem that existed. Equally important of course is how those resources are applied. And in addition to that, equally important, is the climate in which the police and the criminal justice system have to operate. From the 1960s onwards that climate of opinion has not always been supportive, it should have been but it has not been.
A primary responsibility of any government at home is to take action to prevent people suffering from crime, we seek to protect then. And one of the first duties of the citizen is to obey the law and support those who uphold it, and that guarantee of law and order is essential to the British way of life, it is a basic element in any civilised society, and yet the philosophy of the last 30 years has manifestly failed to contain the rise in crime.
In 1990 I concluded that we needed a new resolve, a revolution in attitudes, reforms to add to the power and effectiveness of the courts and of the police, and fresh thinking about some of the free and easy assumptions that have lain behind criminal justice policy for over a generation.
Those were the objectives I set in 1990 -
Many perhaps will be surprised that I included a change of attitude as an objective, but I did it deliberately. The vast majority of people in this country would like to fight back against crime, to contribute to improving the safety of their streets, the protection of their children and the stability of their homes. They want to see blame for the bad and praise for the good, to rebuild respect for authority, to see responsibility rewarded and encouraged, they want less derision of decent social values, more support for those who contribute to our community and rather less for those who offend against it. They want communities where the streets are safe for the law abiding and not threatening for the vulnerable, they want to clamp down on all those who make some of our streets a frightening place to be, and that is true whether it is the professional drug dealer or the aggressive lout who makes life so uncomfortable for so many people.
The boundaries of acceptable behaviour shift invisibly, but as they shift they change lives. It is not these days the big armed robberies that keep older people away from the city centres where they grew up, it is the fear they might be jostled, jeered at, made to feel insecure by rowdy or by offensive behaviour, and that minor crime -
People rightly deplore in this country elements of what could be called a yob culture. Well let us set ourselves an objective to chance it, make a real national effort to build an anti-
All of us, without exception, can show by our attitude and by our example that we condemn and we reject loutishness, vandalism and crime, that we resent the mindless graffiti artists who deface our public places. Too often we have excused crime, patronising people as if nothing better could be expected of them. Too often we have allowed youngsters to slip further into bad habits condoning or repeatedly cautioning their offences when early action could have set a better path. Often it is right to say 'No', and to say 'No' both firmly and early, and I hope increasingly we will do precisely that.
I believe that the right social attitudes will help to turn the tide against petty criminality across the next decades. But we also need to direct crime prevention measures now to make life hard for those who have turned to crime. And if we are to win that battle, I reiterate, it cannot just be done by legislation, it cannot just be done by legislation and the police, if we are to win that battle we must build a huge national partnership against the criminal in every city and county, every workplace, every school and every home, and partnership must be a key element in our crime prevention strategy.
And that is why Michael Howard's Partnership Initiative, to be launched later this month, will prove to be so important. Neighbourhood Watch offers already an excellent example. But the horizons of partnership need to be expanded. All over the country communities will have the opportunity to benefit from the security and the hope which this kind of action will bring. The aggregate of many small initiatives is an effective anti-
This Partnership Initiative, this new initiative, will extend the opportunity for people to serve their own community in this and in other ways. They will be able, if they wish, to serve only their own neighbourhood or immediate community. Schools must help, they have an important role by providing a disciplined environment and taking a strong line on truancy. To put it at its simplest, if children are in a class learning grammar they are not cut in the street learning crime. They can also help by offering competitive team sports, keeping youngsters active, learning to play by the rules and to lose as well as win, it helps build the sort of attitude and character that personally I believe is so important in later life and I believe we need to re-
Councils, designers, developers, can all play their own part, play their part by planning out crime -
Car manufactures too can help to get to grips with the scourge of car crime, backing up the tougher penalties we now have for the thieves themselves. We are working hard for agreement in Brussels on high standards of alarm systems, door and steering wheel locks and immobilisers. Some car firms already have them, it would be helpful if all of them did. And I am glad to see moves within the insurance industry to lower the premiums for protected cars.
So there is a big programme of sensible, in some cases low key, crime prevention already in hand. Some of the steps may seem small individually, but if you put the pieces of that jigsaw together they can change attitudes and they do cut down on crime.
Modern science has a role to play as well and that is why we are giving the police more access to close circuit television, better information technology and DNA testing. Up-
I would like to see if we can go further, so we are now looking at the practicalities of photo driving licenses, smart card technology and the likely value of identity cards. I know there are concerns expressed by some about civil liberties and it is right that we should consider these issues very carefully, and I promise that we will, but to my mind anything that can check crime and cut fraud must be worth careful examination, for above all it is crime, and the fear of crime, that most violates our civil liberties.
Chairman, no single crime prevention measure would be more significant than success on the front against drugs. Last year there were 28,000 notified drug addicts, up 13 percent; there were 11,600 new addicts, up 20 percent; in 1992 there were 72,000 seizures of illegal drugs by police and Customs, up 3 percent; and in the same year there were 1,300 drug related deaths in England and Wales, up by 8 percent.
Startling statistics, but those statistics tell only part of the story. Drug taking wrecks lives, but drug trafficking has spawned a vicious breed of criminal. So far this year there have already been 4 murders and 12 attempted murders in London alone connected to crack. Dealers and traffickers thrive on theft and violence to support their trade, much petty crime is also drug related as people seek cash to fuel their habit.
I have already agreed an international drive on drugs at the European Council in Corfu and the Economic Summit in Naples. I pressed our partners hard to improve coordination in an international fight against drugs. One result will be that we will draw in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in that battle, essential given the huge new source of drugs and crime that the former Soviet bloc has created. Another will be more cross-
The world's drug barons have their own perspective of Europe, to them Europe is a lucrative market and enough cocaine has been seized in the European Union so far this year to provide 24 million individual doses of cocaine. We must not lose that particular battle against the drug dealers and so we will use, wherever possible, the powers that many governments have taken to confiscate the assets of those behind the international traffic in drugs.
But we also need more comprehensive action here at home. Tony Newton will shortly be publishing the results of his review of our policy, it is not ready yet, but I can tell you today that it will include a three year action plan and a new drug strategy. And let me make one thing clear at the outset, there will be no question of legalising any drug. I know some people make a case for legalising some soft drugs but frankly I do not agree with it, I believe there is too great a risk that experimentation with soft drugs is the first step towards dependence on hard drugs. There will be a new emphasis on education and prevention designed to reduce the acceptability and availability of drugs to young and increase the safety of every community from drug-
At the time tougher enforcement action will be taken on the streets. I mean the kind of action that we have seen in Kings Cross which shows that the dealers can be taken off. We want police forces everywhere to put the fight against drugs on their list for priority action, the public need to know that their local police force will be giving very high priority to the nationwide war on drugs.
There will also be a major blitz on drugs in prisons. I prefer people to come out of prison reformed, not sucked into a sub-
And another component of the strategy will be that the treatment of drug addicts will be improved, with better access to drug services right across the country. And special attention will be paid to the needs of young people and their families, for few things are more tragic than the spectacle of young babies born with an inherited addiction to drugs.
Finally, we have agreed to renew funding for the government's drug prevention initiative. It is an imaginative scheme which works at the grass roots of society and focuses on young people, it puts in small specialised teams to work alongside local communities up and down the country. The teams will now expand their areas of operation, increasing coverage from 6 million people to 16 million people, and this will help spread the kind of work being done for example by Notts County Football Club and the Professional Footballers Association to draw youngsters into football training schemes and away from the temptation of drugs.
All in all, the initiative that Tony Newton will be introducing will be the most comprehensive strategy to tackle the drugs problem that this country has seen, that that strategy will be the start and not the finish, the battle against drugs is one that we simply cannot afford to lose.
Mr. Chairman, changing attitudes to crime in general and drugs in particular is one of the three main aims of our strategy. The old proverb is right, prevention is better than cure, yet not even in the Garden of Eden could all crime be prevented and that is why I have been equally keen to see ever more effective policing. Of course, not all criminals, sadly, are going to be caught but in common with our chief constables I believe that many more criminals could be caught and many more are being caught thanks new approaches as policing changes in the 1990s.
A successful police service is central to everything we are trying to do against crime; that is why we put more policemen on the streets; it is why we have let them have the equipment they need, not just the technology I have mentioned but practical weapons like the new batons for the beat constable; but we don’t in this country have a paramilitary police force and I would not myself wish to see one. We have a citizen police force and I believe that is one of its greatest strengths. They don't go back to the barracks at the end of a tough day, they go home to the flat next door, they are ordinary men and women of a rather extraordinary quality.
The police force grows out of and is part of our community so I hope we will see less portraying of the police as if they are a force apart -
Our reforms are there to ensure that we get the very best out of the 5 billion pounds a year of taxpayers' money that we spend on policing in England and Wales. They give more power to police authorities and to chief constables and they do so so that they can use their resources flexibly and maximise their effect in the fight against crime. They will encourage a more responsive service, people will be able to feed in views on what they want the police to focus on in their particular area and people from every walk of life, not just councillors and magistrates, will be able to contribute to the fight against crime as members of police authorities. There will be clear strategic objectives for the police, fewer petty controls, fewer unnecessary management tiers and less paperwork, freeing up officers for the sort of duties that they entered the service to perform.
If you take burglary, for instance, the illustration is quite clear. I have always seen burglary as a key target and I remember some years ago rejecting the idea that there was any such concept as property crime which was expressed as though it was something slightly less serious. Well tell that to the widow or the other vulnerable person whose home has been robbed and their mementos destroyed! I don't think they regard that as a petty crime and I don’t believe we should either.
Police chiefs told me they thought they could tackle these villains but somehow the idea had taken hold that it didn't matter so much, that it couldn't be solved, it was scarcely worth taking the fingerprints or visiting the scene of the burglary but now the police have shown in a very clear fashion precisely how wrongheaded such defeatism is. Many of you I suspect will know of the Met's "Operation Bumblebee". By targeting and surveillance of a hard core of burglars, they have cut residential burglaries in London by 16% in just one year. Two thousand people have been arrested, property worth more than a million pounds given back to those to whom it belongs. Since Bumblebee's launch, perhaps 100,000 fewer victims have had their lives blighted and this success has given a tremendous boost to the morale of those young policemen and policewomen involved.
But today's burglary isn't as once it was seen by some, isn't just a city crime, it is increasingly a rural crime as well. Right across the rural areas of this country people have begun to see professional burglars moving out from the inner cities to what they see as softer targets in the rural areas and now, as a result, up and down the country chief constables are adopting similar approaches to Operation Bumblebee. The Sussex police launched their own in October 1993 and that proved so successful -
This is a changing attitude. It is a changing attitude that deserves the oxygen of publicity, it is a changing attitude to put the burglar on the defensive, the belief that they are more likely to be caught than once they were is a change in attitude that will encourage them to be less active than clearly they have been but Mr. Chairman, catching the criminal is of precious little value unless he receives a sentence that straightens him out and deters him in the future and that takes me to the final strand of our strategy -
Making changes is often controversial, sometimes I think it is invariably controversial. We have faced difficulties in Parliament and challenges outside often I have to say from those who were reluctant to see the most liberal assumptions of the last thirty years challenged but we were right to address the problems as we did and it is reasonable that everyone should now embrace those changes and help to make them work. I make no apology for taking a harder-
Over the last twenty or thirty years, the criminal justice system has tended to drift away from public opinion. There is a role for professionals and above all for the judiciary to lead but a system that does not carry confidence loses consent and there is now little or no public support for the social orthodoxies of the '60s which still hold sway in social work training and in parts of criminology as well. The public would like to see people have a chance to get out of crime but they would also like to see those who go on offending being dealt with firmly; they want common sense policies, tough and challenging penalties for persistent young offenders, not visits to safari parks as the holiday of a lifetime; they want remand and not bail for people who risk repeating the kind of violent crimes for which they are awaiting trial in the first place.
We need a criminal justice system from the social services right through to the judiciary that is in touch with day-
Crime is a decision, it is not a disease. There isn't an excuse for crime. Just because you are poor doesn't mean you are likely to be criminal and just because you are rich doesn't mean you will lead a life of virtue. The privileged may turn to crime and the most uneconomically unfortunate may be pillars of rectitude in their own community because what people often forget is that far from being perpetrators of crime, the poor are often the main victims of the criminal, they are too often the victims of repeated crime. Go on some of the worst council estates up and down our country and you will find people who have suffered most from the activities of the criminal not once, not twice but repeatedly. People who have least often suffer most from some of the criminals that we have in this country. Crime does come smashing on the door of the poor. One study found that half of those who were victims of crime had been victimised before and that they suffered 81% of all reported crime. People suffering four or more crimes a year accounted for 44% of all reported crimes. Tackling this, as the police are now trying to do, will not only cut crime, it will help the most vulnerable in our society.
Whatever doubts I may have had about the prevailing views of the ‘60s, the ‘70s and parts of the ‘80s, l have been struck by the way the criminal justice system has now begun to reflect the changing public mood. Courts have now begun to make greater use of the range of penalties available to them; there has been a 50% increase in the proportion of cases involving 10/17 year olds where the parent is ordered to pay a fine or compensation; there has been an increased use of custody by the courts in line with the hardening of the public mood against crime. The Government's prison-
The signs are that the system is now responding to the public mood and with more prison space as a result of the investment programme there need be less nervousness about long sentences or the use of remand. All parts of the criminal justice system -
I know, going round the country, that some people are still apt to say: "What are you doing about crime?" and yet a great deal has been done since 1991 and of course the measures in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill have yet to take effect. I don't intend this morning to give a great litany but let me just touch on a few of the key steps we have taken to change already the criminal justice system:
We have cut down on the scandalous overuse of cautioning for persistent offenders; we are tightening-
More work is also in hand on the way those found guilty are handled. We are looking at ways of making prisoners earn their privileges and at ending the abuse of home leave. We also propose to make sure that community service is tough and is demanding; we are planning a Green Paper on community sentencing and we are revising the national standards governing them to ensure that they are. Punishment in the community can be a real alternative but it is to be a real alternative it must be a deterrent, it must involve real work and not just a soft option.
Let me read you something that was written recently by the Chief Inspector of Social Services:
"A strategy must command the confidence of the public and victims and not give messages to the young people concerned which they might misinterpret as society being soft on them. They should be made to repair the damage of their unacceptable behaviour and help people less fortunate than themselves."
I agree with every single word that he said.
Mr. Chairman, there is one group that does deserve much gentler treatment and I refer to the victims of crime. The best thing self-
It should be routine, for example, to tell victims in advance what is expected of them as witnesses and what evidence might distress them; to provide separate waiting areas wherever possible and keep waiting times to a minimum both in the run-
Mr. Chairman, in the fight against crime it is my judgement that we have the overwhelming majority of people in this country with us. Down the years, Britain has had a reputation for decency, civility and order. I believe we have all been distressed to see that good name at times cast in shadow. Our aim now is to build a new and better name for Britain as a pioneer in successful strategies against crime not by decriminalising or by diverting from justifiable sentence or by moving the statistical goalposts but by getting to grips with the real problems of prevention, protection and punishment. By changing attitudes, changing police approaches, changing the balance of the criminal justice system, we can put crime on the defensive and criminals on the run. The evidence from recent figures is that the steps which we have taken are coming together and beginning to have an effect.
Michael Howard and I are committed to taking forward this programme of reform. Later this year, Michael will be publishing a further comprehensive account of the strategy we are adopting in our determination to reduce the level of crime. The maintenance of law and order is the foundation of a stable and a secure society. Without it freedom is limited and choice is confined. Whatever the controversies there may have been in Parliament or press, I have been struck in going up and down the country by how strongly the public attitude has changed. There is a real sea change against crime and I believe we must catch that tide if we are to make the reduction of crime a permanent trend.
That is not an easy ambition to meet but I believe it is an ambition that we must seek to meet not just in the short term but in the long term and I believe the partnership with the public at large that I spoke of earlier will add an immensely valuable part to the Government's armoury in dealing with crime. [Applause].