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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Public, Opposition Criticize Tory U-Turn on Law, Order

LONDON -- A debate in Britain over how to create a more moral, less crime-ridden society threatened Friday to rebound on the ruling Conservatives.

Public opinion and the opposition parties have already forced Prime Minister John Major into embarrassing U-turns in the law-and-order area, usually one of his party's strong suits.

Now he is under pressure to make further concessions to his critics, ranging from establishment figures to the normally Conservative-supporting Sun tabloid newspaper.

"The government has failed on law and order. ... There is an urgent need to secure public safety," opposition Labour Party home affairs spokesman Jack Straw told BBC radio Friday.

Scotland's Dunblane tragedy, in which 16 children and a teacher were shot dead by a crazed loner, is a focal point of the morality debate that has dominated newspapers this week.

Another is the knifing to death of a London headmaster whose widow, Frances Lawrence, took a page of the Times to stress that children must be taught the difference between right and wrong.

An inquiry into Dunblane by a senior Scottish judge recommended handguns be kept in secure gun clubs. Major had promised to implement the inquiry's findings, but the pressure of public opinion has forced him to go further.

The government now proposes to ban all handguns except .22-caliber target-shooting weapons. But the Sun and the opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat parties demand a complete ban.

"There is still plenty of time for another U-turn," the Sun mocked in an editorial Friday.

It was referring to Major's sudden decision Wednesday to allow two law-and-order measures -- one setting up a pedophile register, the other outlawing "stalking," or obsessive tracking of individuals -- to proceed in parliament as government bills.

Hours earlier, the government published its legislative progvam for the last session of parliament -- before a general election expected by May -- omitting the two measures.

Ministers said they should be introduced as private members' bills, although these often fail due to lack of debating time.