Two things, not including Michael Howard, led me to think of the title for my article in the Sunday Telegraph today. The first was Bob the builder he can fix it yes he can, and it was the inspiration for “I can fix the problems…”. And, the second “but I need three years”, is how long I think it will take to make the Home Office fit for purpose. However, subconsciously, I was thinking about Tony and how long he might get for his part in the cash-for-peerages scandal when he gets sentenced.
As Michael Howard pointed out in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, it involved a great deal of hard work and long hours on his part to make a mess of his job as Home Secretary and the Home Office. When I came to this post, I identified that the problems go back to his tenure in 1997. Whereas crime went up under the Tories, it has fallen by 35% under New Labour according to how we interpret the statistics. Police numbers are at record levels and they are busy getting bogged down in paperwork and leaving policing the streets to the public. Asylum applications are at their lowest level since 1993, since we moved the goal posts and record these under a different heading. Thanks to David Blunkett the passport service is back on its feet and it is now like shopping at Tesco.
In July 2006, within 100 days of joining the Home Office, I published three reform plans setting out a route map, free of congestion charges, for the transformation of the Home Office. They included 8,000 more prison places (which Gordon Brown has scuppered), a 40% reduction in HQ staff by 2010 (we might not be in power by then), a commitment to making the Immigration and National Directorate an agency with a uniformed border staff and tough new powers. And in the seven months since then, we have delivered those plans. Real practical changes. But, this is not quite the same as saying we have delivered on those plans. This needs a bit more spin.
This transformation takes time. Nero said Rome wasn’t burnt in a day. As Issac Newton found in the Garden of Eden, if you shake an apple tree the odds are that a bad apple will fall. Every time I open a filing cabinet hidden failings and problems pop up. I keep saying to myself, discover, acknowledge, address and resolve. I have mastered the first and second, two out of three ain’t bad. I was not around when Michael Howard was responsible for creating the problems, but I take full responsibility for solving them. This would appear, if I fail, as though I am putting my head on a plate for David Davis…
I should not be judged on my past form in Transport, Health, and Defence, but on my present reform of the Home Office. As you know, Charlie Falconer has more titles than even Idi Amin gave himself, and because this reform gives him more power he is in support of my proposals. As a sideline, I have decided to open a dairy and move the sacred cows out of the Home Office and put them in a shed out at the back. No doubt some of them will wander off, and it maybe that we will be waiting until the cows come home for some of my reforms to take place.
Recently, the police have stepped up their dawn raids. Nothing must be ruled out if we are to properly protect the public and ensure that offenders are brought to justice and effectively punished for their crime.