Cameron: Blair to blame for Home Office failures

The prime minister has “no-one to blame but himself” for the failures in the Home Office, David Cameron has warned.

The Conservative leader was speaking as home secretary John Reid meets civil servants to work out a strategy to improve his department, after declaring it “not fit for purpose”.

Mr Reid is expected to announce a major review of the whole Home Office after facing a barrage of criticisms about illegal immigration, sentencing and a burgeoning prison population in his first six weeks in the job.

But today Mr Cameron insisted that after nine years in power, the government only had itself to blame for failures in law and order policy.

It now needed to take long-term measures to improve the situation, such as introducing a new border police force and also a new ministry for homeland security, he said.

“It’s clear that real change is needed at the Home Office. But the prime minister has had nine years and countless initiatives – can he honestly blame people for thinking he’s taken his eye off the ball, he’s out of touch and he cannot be the person to sort it out?” Mr Cameron asked.

In a raucous session of prime minister’s questions in the Commons, he added: “He’s had three huge majorities and introduced 54 pieces of criminal justice legislation – isn’t it true that the prime minister has no-one to blame but himself?”

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell also weighed into Mr Blair, saying he could not recall a time where there was “so much acrimony” between the Home Office on the one hand, and the police and the judiciary on the other.

He was referring to the row about the five-year minimum sentence handed down last week for a man who sexually assaulted a three-year-old girl. Mr Reid said the tariff was “unduly lenient”, but the lord chancellor insisted the judges should not be blamed.

“Isn’t it clear that what is necessary is wholesale reform of the Home Office?” Sir Menzies asked, and called for the creation of a new ministry of justice.

However, Mr Blair hit back against his opponents, rejecting suggestions that the Home Office needed to be broken up into separate departments dealing with justice or terrorism, and insisting that Labour was the only party that was prepared to act on law and order.

He dismissed the Conservatives’ claims for a new police force to deal with Britain’s borders, saying the government’s policy was to act through “intelligence-led operations”, and said ID cards – which the Tories opposed – would be a crucial tool in security.

“As a result of the changes that have been made [since 1997], crime is down, there are record numbers of police, and a reduced number of asylum claims,” Mr Blair declared.

“It is important we look at whether we can go forward, but when we bring forward these measures I hope [Mr Cameron] won’t do what he’s done before, which is attack us for not being tough enough.when what he actually does in this House is vote against each and every measure necessary.”