Cameron calls for social covenant

David Cameron has called for a new social covenant to stem the rise of anti-social behaviour and youth violence.

Speaking after the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, Mr Cameron said he could not offer any quick solutions and instead argued Britain needed to rebuild its sense of social responsibility.

As part of the Conservatives’ three-dimensional approach to crime and disorder, Mr Cameron argued rebuilding society and culture was the most important component.

Speaking in Brize Norton, he argued this would mean strengthening families and communities, and accepting the notion that it “takes a village to raise a child”.

After criticising the government’s strategy on crime for much of the past week, Mr Cameron said it was not up to the home secretary or prime minister to solve the problem.

Mr Cameron said: “We need a social covenant. I’m not talking about a new set of words to express our national values. I’m talking about something more powerful than words.

“A national recognition that it is not just up to the government to take responsibility for the state of our nation, it is up to all of us.

“To me this is what social responsibility is all about.”

He appealed to companies’ own sense of social responsibility, rallying against shops that sell alcohol to young teenagers, gossip pages that promote drunkenness, music producers that exploit negative stereotypes and movie and video games directors who push the boundaries of acceptable violence.

But Mr Cameron warned against the “usual” response to youth crime, speaking of the limitations of the routine response of a Downing Street summit followed by public crackdown.

While pushing the case for more social responsibility, Mr Cameron also invoked the traditional Tory stance on criminal justice and red tape.

He argued police should be freed from paperwork while the court system needs to send out an “unambiguous message about punishment and deterrence”.

As political attention increasingly turns to the supply of guns and drugs, Mr Cameron reiterated his argument for a border police force.

The home secretary insisted the government was serious about tackling to supply of guns, adding it was time to “get tough” on crime.

Jacqui Smith said: “Where there are serious problems, we deal with them. And, of course, there is an increase in sentencing for carrying guns. I’ll be as tough as it needs to get guns off the streets and young people out of gangs.”

However, Ms Smith rejected the Tory leader’s assertion that Rhys Jones’ murder represented an endemic social problem.

Although saying “statistics do not help,” Ms Smith said gun crime was going down overall, while the vast majority of young people would be shocked by the latest murder.