Tim Shipman and Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail (London), August 16, 2011
David Cameron announced a crackdown on 120,000 feckless families yesterday in a campaign to combat the ‘moral collapse’ which led to the riots.
Declaring ‘all-out war’ on gangs, the Prime Minister vowed to ‘turn around’ the most troubled families in the land and said he wants to see every 16-year-old complete a civilian version of national service.
He also denounced the ‘chilling effect’ of human rights legislation on behaviour and vowed to rewrite the rules when Britain takes over the chairmanship of the European Council in November.
Rights laws, said Mr Cameron, are exerting ‘a corrosive influence on behaviour and morality’ in a way which has ‘undermined personal responsibility’.
His radical plans for action raised as many questions as they answered, however, with opponents pointing out that the Government has actually cut the amount spent on problem families.
Seeking to get on the front foot over the riots, Mr Cameron pledged to ‘put rocket boosters’ under ministerial plans to send experts in to advise parents on how to cook properly, discipline their children and seek work. Cabinet ministers will be ordered to review every policy to ensure it is family-friendly.
In a speech in his Witney constituency, Mr Cameron said: ‘If we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start.
‘Within the lifetime of this Parliament we will turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country.
‘From here on I want a family test applied to all domestic policy. If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keeps people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.’
Aides said Mr Cameron would order ministers to help his family champion, social entrepreneur Emma Harrison, who was appointed last year. Her plans will see police, social workers and jobcentres work together.
The Prime Minister added: ‘We’ve got to be less sensitive to the charge that this is about interfering or nannying.’ But he admitted the plans have become stalled.
‘I will make sure that we clear away the red tape and the bureaucratic wrangling, and put rocket boosters under this programme.’
Mr Cameron has already called for a British Bill of Rights to enable human rights laws to be determined by Westminster, not Europe.
But he has previously been attacked for failing to heed growing Tory backbench demands to repeal Labour’s Human Rights Act.
Yesterday he said: ‘The truth is, the interpretation of human rights legislation has exerted a chilling effect on public-sector organisations, leading them to act in ways that fly in the face of common sense, offend our sense of right and wrong, and undermine responsibility.’
From November Britain will chair the Council of Europe, the body which overseas the European Court of Human Rights.
Britain will introduce plans–backed by the Germans and the Dutch–which will urge the court to concentrate on cases where there is genuine abuse of human rights rather than overruling domestic courts on more subjective issues such as whether prisoners should have the right to vote.
Mr Cameron used the riots to relaunch his notion of a National Citizen Service, which will see 30,000 16-year-olds conduct summer projects to improve their communities this year.
Aides say he wants the plan to go nationwide, but the scheme will not become compulsory.
He said: ‘Many people have long thought that the answer to these questions of social behaviour is to bring back national service. In many ways I agree.
‘Teamwork, discipline, duty, decency: these might sound old-fashioned words but they are part of the solution to this very modern problem of alienated, angry young people.’
The Prime Minister also vowed to tackle health and safety rules which ‘justify all sorts of actions and regulations that damage our social fabric’.
Mr Cameron’s plans were seen as bold attempt to re-energise his government, but critics pointed out that it will have to find more cash–difficult at a time of austerity.
Labour released figures showing that government funding for the projects has actually been cut this year from around £50million to £46million.
In a rival speech yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband launched a scathing attack on Mr Cameron accusing him of rushing out ‘knee-jerk gimmicks’ without any thought.
He also demanded that politicians of all parties condemn the ‘racist’ views of historian David Starkey, who claimed on Newsnight that the riots happened because too many young white people had ‘now become black’.
By yesterday almost 700 viewers have made formal complaints to the BBC over Friday night’s programme.