Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

PM accused over prison sentencing

David Cameron has been accused of overseeing a 'total mess' on sentencing and the NHS after another apparent policy climbdown

David Cameron has been lambasted for overseeing a "total mess" on sentencing and the NHS after another apparent climbdown on a key policy.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister seemed to have "torn up" controversial plans for halving jail time for serious criminals in the face of a major backlash.

He also dismissed concessions over the coalition Government's health service shake-up, insisting Mr Cameron was "completely shameless and will say anything".

Mr Cameron is believed to have ordered Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke to think again at a one-on-one meeting to discuss the sentencing plans, which are currently out for consultation.

Raising the issue in the Commons, Mr Miliband said: "He knows and the whole country knows he is in a total mess on his sentencing policy, just like on all his other crime policies."

But Mr Cameron insisted: "What we want is tough sentences for serious offenders. We produced a consultation paper that had widespread support for many of the proposals that it made and in the coming weeks we will be publishing our legislation."

The Labour leader pointed out that it was the second time in two days that Mr Cameron had stepped in to execute a policy climbdown, after he announced significant changes to NHS reforms.

Tory backbenchers, who have been openly hostile to Mr Clarke's proposals for increasing maximum sentence discounts from a third to 50%, were quick to seize on his discomfort.

Philip Hollobone asked the premier why, when magistrates had to retire aged 70, the justice secretary was still in his post at nearly 71. As Mr Clarke shifted in his seat nearby, Mr Cameron replied: "He is doing a superb job and there is plenty more fuel in the tank."

Another critic, Shipley MP Philip Davies, told Sky News' Boulton & Co programme the Justice Secretary had been wrecking the Tories' reputation as tough on crime: "I hope that the Prime Minister has seen that this was doing massive damage to the government, to the Conservative brand," he said. "Ken Clarke was in danger of single handedly ruining the Conservative Party's reputation as the party of law and order."

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