By James Slack
The letter from Jacqui Smith predicts sharp rises in burglary and violence and possibly terrorism
Crime, violence, illegal working and even terrorist numbers will surge because of the economic downturn.
This is the chilling verdict of a dynamite draft letter from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to Gordon Brown, leaked to the Daily Mail.
It predicts sharp rises in burglary and violence – but less funding to put police on the streets to meet the tide of lawlessness.
The 12-page document also warns that support for the far Right will increase as unemployment bites, meaning minority groups such as Muslims will be more likely to suffer racism, pushing them towards radicalisation and even terrorism.
In an interview at the weekend, Chancellor Alistair Darling warned the current economic conditions are ‘arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years’, and will get worse.
Now opponents say the mask has slipped even further with the revelations by Miss Smith’s Home Office of what the terrible consequences will be for ordinary families.
It has even set up an ‘economic conditions’ unit to help ministers cope.
Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said: ‘This rips the veil off the complacent comments we have been getting from Home Office ministers about how their performance is improving.
‘It is clear that in almost all areas of the Home Office things are going to get worse.’
The letter, drawn up by the Home Office for Miss Smith to send to Mr Brown, appears to be a direct response to a Downing Street request.
In mid-July, Number Ten is believed to have asked a number of major departments how their responsibilities would be affected by the credit crunch – and what they were doing to prepare.
The Home Office replied by highlighting a string of potentially alarming consequences, most of which are inter-linked.
On crime, it suggests similar economic conditions in the past led to a surge of up to 19 per cent in violence.
Referring to offences such as burglary and theft, the letter adds: ‘Our modelling indicates that an economic downturn would place significant upward pressure on acquisitive crime and therefore overall crime figures.
‘Yet the letter indicates there will be fewer police on the streets to cope.
‘Cost pressures, such as high fuel costs and rising salaries, might leave forces facing financial pressures and require difficult decisions over officer numbers and priorities.’
The picture on border control is equally bleak.
The draft, which has yet to be sent to Mr Brown, says: ‘In an economic downturn we expect a significant increase in smuggling in particular of fuel, alcohol and tobacco, but also across a wider range of goods.
‘An economic downturn could mean an increase in illegal working if migrants’ opportunities for legal working decline and employers are seeking to save costs.’
But, as with police, there might be fewer border guards to cope.
Other sections add: ‘There is also a risk of a downturn increasing the appeal of far-Right extremism and racism, which presents a threat as there is evidence that grievances based on experiencing racism is one of the factors that can lead to people becoming terrorists.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We do not normally comment on leaked documents but this is draft advice that the Home Secretary has not cleared and has not been sent to Number 10.
‘It is, however, appropriate that the Home Office considers the effects the economic climate may have on crime and other policy areas.
‘We are confident that we have the right systems in place to respond flexibly to changing economic needs, and are well positioned to face future challenges.
‘We have record numbers of police officers and commensurate supporting investments such as police and community support officers.’