Home Office Minister and former leader of Brighton and Hove council Lord Bassam explains how the Government intends to take forward the fight against crime.

Tackling crime and disorder is a top priority for the Government. It is an essential part of our plans to build a safer, more responsible society.

Last month's British Crime Survey showed a ten per cent fall in crime across England and Wales since March 1997.

Nationally, domestic burglary is down by almost a quarter, to the lowest level for a decade. Here in Sussex burglary is down by 12.9% and car crime by 10.38% since the election.

The Government has also made a major commitment to policing. Funds have been set aside to ensure that forces recruit up to 9,000 officers between now and 2003.

We are funding an extra 206 police recruits for Sussex during the next three years, over and above the existing plans of the Chief Constable.

We are also well on the way to delivering our key election pledge to halve the time from arrest to sentencing for persistent young offenders. In 1999, the figures in Sussex had fallen to 96 days from 147 days in 1997.

But crime is still far too high. So five new laws to fight it are at the heart of the content of today's Queen's Speech to Parliament.

First, the Criminal Justice and Police Bill will ensure the police service has the powers it needs to deal with the kind of crime and disorder that I know is all too familiar in places like Brighton and Hove, and elsewhere in the county.

It will include powers for police to issue fixed penalty notices for a range of offences related to disorderly conduct such as threatening or insulting behaviour. It will include powers to close, immediately, licensed premises where disorder is occurring, and to prohibit public drinking where it becomes a local problem.

At the same time, the new Private Security Bill will for the first time regulate the private security industry. Its aim is to drive out the crooks - the cowboy wheelclampers and drug-dealing bouncers.

We need to ensure those who go clubbing, young people in particular, get the protection they need from the unscrupulous. In a place like Brighton this will be particularly reassuring for students, their parents and their families.

Meanwhile the new Vehicles (Crime) Bill will help us build on our successes in reducing vehicle crime.

It will introduce statutory regulation of the motor salvage industry and compulsory vehicle identity checks for any written-off vehicle before it is allowed back on the road.

This will make it much more difficult for criminals to dispose of the tens of thousands of vehicles stolen or reported stolen each year.

The Bill will also re-circulate money obtained in the magistrates courts from speed camera fines to be spent on more speed cameras to improve road safety.

We will also extend our modernisation of the criminal justice system, by removing the ability of those accused of various petty crimes to elect Crown Court trial and play the system.

The Bill will make justice faster and fairer to victims of crime and make sure the guilty don't string out the justice system and get off crimes by default.

These measures have the backing of magistrates and the police who know best who abuses the courts process. Justice delayed is justice denied, especially for the victims of crime.

Finally we are targeting the profits of crime. Too often, even when criminals are caught and convicted, they hang on to their ill-gotten gains. That defeats justice and presents a damaging role model for young people.

The draft Proceeds of Crime Bill proposes the establishment of a National Confiscation Agency, dedicated to tracking down and depriving them of their unlawful earnings. In particular we object to drug dealers continuing to profit from their ill-gotten gains even after conviction.

The police and courts cannot operate with one hand tied behind their backs. The legislation in the Queen's Speech will give them the powers they need to ensure that justice is done and that our communities are made safer.

Since the last election crime has reduced by 1.6 per cent in Sussex, burglaries and car crime are lower and our streets are safer.

The Government is not complacent and knows there is more for us to do.

The local crime reduction partnership between local councils, the community and the police are setting tough targets for further burglary reduction, 37% by 2005, and for car crime, 20% during the same period.

As a Government we should never give up on crime. With the police and local communities, we can crack crime together.