Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Miss Chloe Smith.)
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this important issue in the Chamber this morning, and I am grateful to my good and hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna), who had the original idea for this debate, and brings such issues to the House regularly. You will recognise, Mr Caton, that in August we saw some awful scenes of social unrest in this country that we had not seen for a considerable time. Following those riots, much has been said about gangs in our society.
As the MP for Tottenham, it is important to say that although I recognise that gang members were certainly caught up in the violence, the evidence made available to me by local police, the arrest sheets and the issues arising from the riots suggest that it would be wrong to infer that those riots were orchestrated by gangs, or at least that gangs were central to them. The issues are complex and many, and include policing. The riots involved not just people who do not have a stake in society, but those who got swept up in the social unrest and found themselves doing unimaginable things.
We have an opportunity this morning to reflect on gangs and gang membership, how we are tackling the problem, the other crime and violence issues relating to gangs, and some of the underlying causes. The starting point is that gangs are not new. We probably all recall reading “Great Expectations” at school, and recognise that gangs are not a new phenomenon in British cultural life. Indeed, in other periods of hardship, young men in particular have clustered together and caused mayhem and havoc for those around them.
A particular phenomenon has developed in London, and has accelerated over the last decade. Associated with the gang profile are members who are increasingly younger and often teenagers, and a growth in knife crime. The figures for knife crime rose last year, as did those for violent crime among young people, and those of us who represent London seats suspect that we are seeing a rise in knife crime as we speak. Drug-related activity is also associated with gangs.
The issue is of tremendous concern. I am aware of four knife crime victims in the London borough of Haringey in the last two weeks alone. During the summer, one gang member was stabbed twice on two separate occasions in as many months. That is the toxic and worrying nature of the issue. When trying to understand the problem in the context of what success looks like for young people in a constituency such as mine, I usually boil it down to five issues: education, employment, community, aspiration and parenting. I want to touch on those five issues in relation to gangs and why young people in constituencies such as mine are being seduced into gang membership.
Constituencies such as mine and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) are often described as inner-city constituencies, although I have never liked the phrase because it suggests that it is acceptable to have an inner city when I would like to live in just one city. Some crimes are associated with seats such as ours, but the profile of youth violence throughout London has changed. The face of gang membership is diverse, and seems to be associated as much with the inner city as with suburban London. Parochialism is manifest in gangs, and I constantly find it peculiar to see the turf wars that go on between one gang in the N17 and N15 postcode and another in the N22 postcode in Wood Green.
Many incidents of gun and knife crime relate to conflicts between Tottenham-based gangs and Hackney-based gangs criss-crossing the border between the two boroughs.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In days gone by, she and I have had to discuss attending funerals and memorial services for gang victims because of the sensitivities between those on one side of a street and those on the other side. In the Stamford Hill part of my hon. Friend’s constituency a wonderful young man, Godwin Lawson, who was an aspiring footballer, lost his life when he was brutally stabbed in the street one evening. His family have been so honourable in the tragedy that befell them. I remember walking with my hon. Friend in Stamford Hill where one side of the street was in her constituency, and the other was in mine. It seems that poor Godwin had simply strayed into a different patch, and died as a consequence. My hon. Friend has great experience of that, and we have seen hyper-parochialism develop throughout London.
Hon. Members in the Chamber will have similar experience of the obsession with postcodes. Many young people are worried that when they leave school, particularly secondary school, at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon or travel on the bus to and from school they may cross postcodes and go into other areas. Parents who attend our surgeries say, “I don’t want my daughter or son to go to that school. I have to get to work, so they go to school on their own, and I am worried. They say that there are gang members on that bus, and that because they come from the wrong postcode there will be problems.” The local authority is co-ordinating and staggering school exit times to try to avoid such problems, but there are areas of London where young people who come from different postcodes meet—as one would expect—and things flare up. Gang activity is at the centre of that.
Over the past few years there have been gains in education, particularly secondary education, but all London boroughs have seen an increase in the number of children in care following the cases of baby P and Victoria Climbié. When I visit pupil referral units and look at the issues faced by children in care, I see a pattern that still prevails for young people in such circumstances. I am concerned that pupil referral units and help for children out of school remain, to some extent, a Cinderella service. Frankly, it should be a Rolls-Royce service if we are to support young people when they are at their most fragile, and prevent them from falling into trouble during those initial stages.
I have been clear that the rioting that we saw across London was of a complex nature. One important issue, however, is unemployment, and it falls to national Government to do something about that. The Northumberland Park ward of my constituency has Tottenham Hotspur football club at its centre, but it is also the ward with the highest levels of unemployment in London, with 20% of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance. In some communities—I think of the Somali community and parts of the black community—that figure is double, and such unemployment stretches out for months and months. I am from Tottenham which, I remind the House, saw similar levels of unemployment during previous recessions in the 1980s. It is a tragedy that the parents who were unemployed then now have children who are unemployed—whole families who have not seen employment.
The issue is simple. As my mother used to say, “Idle hands make the devil’s work.” We need a firm grip on growth in our economy, and we must look at where jobs are and how we can get them to those families and young people. Most of my constituents who were in employment worked in the public sector—it has always been that way in the borough of Tottenham—but many of those jobs have been cut. Those employed in the private sector often work in retail and the service economy but, as the House will have seen from the latest figures, that sector is shrinking and no one is anticipating a boom Christmas sale period. It is hard for those twenty-somethings to get a foothold in employment and the economy. We have seen a growth in apprenticeships, but it is not clear that we have seen the scale of growth that is necessary, particularly in London and constituencies such as mine.
Despite all that we may learn from American senior police officers, unless they come with a growth strategy in their back pocket it will be pretty hard for my constituents to believe that staying off the street and in meaningful employment is a genuine prospect. One can knock on any door in the Northumberland Park ward and what people say is simple: why are there so many young people on the streets with apparently nothing to do? That is how people get caught up in gangs. As I have said, this is not a new subject; Dickens wrote about it—the Artful Dodger was effectively in a gang. A bit of petty theft here and a bit of small drug running there; that is how people get caught up in criminality, and before they know it they are carrying a knife for protection or, if really serious, a gun. That is the pattern we see.
I agree with everything my right hon. Friend has said about employment, but one aspect of the way that some young people are caught up in gang culture means that if they were offered a decent job tomorrow they would not take it, because they have grown accustomed to easy money and an easy life, and do not know what it means to get up and go to work at 8 o’clock in the morning, as our parents did. I do not want to take away from what he has said, but how to wean a generation away from a semi-criminalised subculture and into the world of work is a complex question.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. That brings me to the other ingredients of the debate—aspiration and community. It is clear that too many young people are losing all contact not only with work, but with what I call character-building activities, such that they can engage in that work. We live in hyper-materialistic, consumer-driven times. That affects us all, but I believe that it can affect the poorest most harshly. Middle-class families can introduce all sorts of things into the home, such as scouts, football or ballet classes, which will ameliorate some of the other possibilities in their children’s lives. That is not the case for many of my constituents, and youth services in the London borough of Haringey have been cut by 75%.
For a parent—I say parent, because it is often a mum struggling on her own—it is a challenge to create aspiration and compete with the drug dealer on the other side of the street who offers a quick way to get easy money, particularly while she is trying to hold down a job. Often, it is not even one job, but two, because we all know that here in London it is virtually impossible for a constituent such as that single mum to earn a living wage with just one job. That returns us to the issue of how to be there for our young people and what it means to be family in London: it is about not only absentee fathers who do not take their responsibilities seriously—something I have raised many times—but how hard life is for those who want to take their responsibilities seriously.
I think of a family who were challenged in court this summer because their 15-year-old daughter was caught looting. The parents did not turn up to court, and the judge said, “Where are the parents and what are they up to? This is typical.” I know the parents; indeed, the family have been known to me for many years. Dad is a minicab driver, and as a consequence works irregular hours to make ends meet. Mum has a small business. They are churchgoers. They are struggling with a large family and doing the best that they can, but they are a classic family working all hours just to make ends meet and are not able to be entirely on top of everything that their young people are doing because of what is required to make a living wage in the London economy.
Hon. Members know me well enough to know that it would be very unusual for me to make excuses for young people who, in the end, have moral choices and choose to pick up a knife and use it, or choose to deal crack cocaine. However, our economy is important. That is why I raise the issue of unemployment. The culture that surrounds our young people is important. That is why I raise the issue of hyper-materialism and how quickly and easily a young boy can get caught up in it. Before we know it, he is off with a gang, even though he has parents who are doing their best.
In the end, we are centred on how we deal with the issue. There are innovations that I want to see in the system. I congratulate the London borough of Waltham Forest—no doubt my good and hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) will draw on this in her contribution—on the development of the Connect model. The measures to which I am referring involve getting around these young people in a co-ordinated way, intelligence sharing across the different stakeholders—the local authority, the health authority, the police, social services, youth services and others—intervening in chaotic families and saying to young people who we know are caught up in crime, violent crime and gang membership, “We will give you a chance if you take the services available to you. We won’t lock you up. If you take that chance, we’ll help you to get out of the gang, but if you don’t take that chance, we will be very heavy-handed through the arm of the law.” I am talking about giving them that possibility and, as a consequence, seeing the numbers fall from the dire and very concerning level in Waltham Forest of just a couple of years ago.
In Haringey, we look forward to applying the Connect model to how we begin to deal with gangs and gang membership in our borough, but we are doing so against a backdrop of a 50% cut in our youth offending service. I recognise that we are living in times of austerity. I do not want to rehearse the debate in the House about cuts, cutting too quickly and all the rest of it, but I do want to say that some services need to be immune to some of what is happening and the youth offending service must be one of them.
Some of the networks that are available and could be used in inner-city and urban areas throughout the UK are, of course, school networks. That is not a cheaper option, but one that should certainly be resourced. I am thinking of school breakfast clubs and post-school clubs, where young people are encouraged to stay on and become involved in activities that are more positive than some of the things to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If a young person lives on the 15th floor of a tower block on one of my local estates, an after-school club is vital for their mother in seeking employment—if she is tempted to seek employment, who will take care of her child when school finishes? A breakfast club is essential if she has a cleaning job and Dad drives a minicab. In those circumstances, the young person getting to school early and getting a good breakfast is not an add-on; it is essential, but it is not clear that that is happening.
Let us examine the figures. Last year, knife crime rose by 8% in London. In addition, 43% of 11 to 13-year-olds and 50% of 14 to 16-year-olds said that knife crime and street violence were their No. 1 issue. Against that backdrop, we needed a youth offending service. We needed people to get to these young people early and work with them on intervention, prevention and persuasion. The service was developing, not mature, and was, in a sense, fairly new. I am alarmed that in the London borough of Haringey the budget has been cut by 50%.
In addition, some essential co-ordinated activity is not going on in a statutory way. Members of the voluntary sector often get together and debate these things, but it is not clear that there is any statutory obligation at all for the various services to be sat around a table, co-ordinating activities, profiling these young people and sharing intelligence.
Beyond the local authority, the activity that I have described is not happening London-wide. The border between Haringey and Hackney is porous, and the border between Haringey and Waltham Forest is porous. I am talking about co-ordinating intelligence. What is happening with these families? Which older brother went to prison last week? Which father found himself in trouble? Did domestic violence take place last week? It is essential that the various professionals have the ability to talk to one another and therefore know what is happening and or can predict what will happen, but that is not happening across London.
The Minister needs to examine that issue and needs to press the Mayor of London on it. There has been a lot of rhetoric and talk, but not a lot of action. The Mayor ran for office and won the election on the basis that he would reduce knife crime, so all of us must be very concerned that that is not happening. If anything, the problem has accelerated and got worse. Co-ordinated activity is essential. I am not saying that all this can be driven from the top, but it is possible to press for best practice, understand what is happening and see different professionals speaking to one another about those families and young people. That is not happening across London; it needs to happen, and much more purposefully. I hope that the Minister will say something about the youth offending services and teams that have been cut, and about what co-ordinated activity is planned across and beyond boroughs London-wide.
It is also clear to me that we are not sharing best practice and intelligence across the country, because I have been to other cities that are beginning to struggle with gang crime in their communities and they feel behind the curve in relation to some of the things that we have become familiar with in London.
It is important to put it on the record that there have been improvements in some statistics for some areas of serious crime, whether knife crime or gun crime, in recent years, although I accept that there is a tendency now to move in the wrong direction. We all know that just to bandy around statistics is not a sensible route forward. I very much take on board the idea that there needs to be far more co-ordination within London. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his own local authority perhaps being behind the curve compared with the neighbouring authority of Waltham Forest, which has put in place the Connect programme. It is important that, rather than getting into a sterile debate on statistics, which I accept happens on all sides in political discourse in London, we acknowledge that the Mayor and his predecessor have recognised the importance of dealing with gang crime and, in particular, the terrible statistics for knife and gun crime. Whether there is a slight reduction or not, any deaths that take place because of knife or gun crime are terrible tragedies, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The point I am making is that, two years ago, the assistant borough commander, the head of the youth service and her representatives, and representatives of social services, health services and schools were sat around the table—routinely, every month—discussing the group of young people who were getting caught up in this situation, and that funds were coming through to support that activity. I am afraid that they told me last week that that has ended. They are engaged—meeting voluntarily, every six weeks—because they are so concerned, but there is no statutory framework for that activity, and neither is there the support and diversion activity that needs to happen.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate from his long experience that what those young people need is diversionary activity and intervention. That requires resources. If he speaks to colleagues in Waltham Forest—my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow might say something about this—he will hear that they are concerned about resources. I think that this is one area in which we can make the plea for resources, because the consequences of under-resourcing will cost us so much more. The co-ordination and resources that must rightly follow, so that those professionals can do their job, are essential.
The right hon. Gentleman is clearly drawing on his extensive experience. To return to the issue of youth offending, is he calling for ring-fenced funding from central Government to go to local authorities, or does he believe that local authorities themselves have a duty to prioritise youth offending funding within their budgets?
I am not calling for prescription; it is not for me to prescribe how this should be done. That must be a matter for the Government. What I am saying is that this is a priority and a real issue in London. Youth services are being cut and reduced across London. It is easy to make the point that the London borough of Haringey, for example, should prioritise youth services at a time when it has to cut £40 million in year from its budget. I am worried, however, that I will be here with colleagues next year and that the figures will have gone in the wrong direction, because we will have been unable to prioritise the service.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, although I do not recognise a picture that suggests that gangs were behind this summer’s rioting and social unrest, it is clear that gang members were part of it. I have spoken to the manager of JD Sports in Tottenham retail centre and to the manager of Comet. I have also looked at some of the video and pictures of complete lawlessness, which ran for more than five or six hours—there were more young people in that shop that night, looting and robbing, than during the day—and I do not want my constituents to get accustomed to such things, because that would be dangerous for any society—those events have to be a one-off. Those charged with intervening in, dispersing and engaging with often chaotic families, as well as those who co-ordinate pupil referral units and ensure that young people in care are properly provided for, who work with families, who think about a living wage and about our economy, and who ask hard questions about where the jobs are in a constituency such as Tottenham, recognise that this is important.
Although I am pleased that the Government have said that they want to prioritise the issue, as a Back Bencher I want to scrutinise how that is done. We should, of course, speak to those from across the pond who have experience in this area, but I have now been the MP for Tottenham for 12 years and, when I began, knife crime and gangs were certainly not a major phenomenon of the capital city. In those days, the caricature was of yardie gangs—I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington will recall reading about them in the papers.
The situation has changed completely and we have a decision to make: are we going to see gangs and that terrible youth violence as a permanent phenomenon of our economy and country, as in parts of downtown America? We are on a cusp. We can either get over the problem with proper, co-ordinated quality effort, or I am afraid that it will be a permanent phenomenon of our modern economy.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on his speech. I will try to be brief. He is right to identify that the riots were, in essence, an example of opportunistic, rather than systematic, gang-related criminality. None the less, it is important that we discuss gangs, not least because we will have an opportunity in 48 hours to discuss, in this same Chamber, the riots in greater detail.
I respect the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution. None of the issues is open to a simplistic analysis or easy solution. It is perhaps the nature of the 24/7 media world in which we live that that expectation always exists. In the immediate aftermath of the riots, there was a sense that we should have some quick and easy solutions, but I think that the lesson is that, much as I accept his call to arms and passionate push for urgency, we also have to be patient. This needs systematic work within our communities to try to make sure that we break down the culture of violence and criminality, as well as the entirety of gang culture.
I am very much a sound money man. I have been a great believer in getting our deficit down and have tried in my own constituency, almost uniformly, not to make the case for more money to be pushed in a particular direction. I am, however, aware of gang culture in my own constituency and in the past few days I have written to the Home Secretary to make the case for moneys that would otherwise be taken away from Westminster city council to be put in its direction. There is a bigger issue of gang culture in the constituency of the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck). The terrible shooting that took place on the Mozart estate only a week ago was a classic example of that.
In my constituency, the Churchill Gardens estate is not too far from where we sit this morning and there is increasingly great concern that it has almost a critical mass of would-be gang culture that has the potential to cause great blight to the locality. A lot of it is driven by the postcode war, with gangs from north and south of the river—the Churchill Gardens estate looks out towards Battersea and the south of London. There is real concern that we need to put some resource into prevention rather than cure.
I accept what the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said earlier. One of the greatest difficulties is that the lifestyle has almost become chaotic and that it is difficult to wean people off. I also noticed that she raised her eyebrows when the right hon. Member for Tottenham suggested that gang culture was not an issue in 2000 when he became an MP. It has been a problem, although I think that there is now a critical mass in parts of London that used to feel unaffected by it. One of the interesting things about the riots was how previously quiet suburbs, such as Clapham and Enfield, which were perhaps regarded as leafy suburbs not too far away from some of the gangland areas of south London, Edmonton or Walthamstow, suddenly became subject to some real problems. That is something that we have to bear firmly in mind.
As I have said, this will require patient, time-consuming activity. The St Andrew’s club, of which I am proud, as the local Member of Parliament, to be president, is even closer to us than the Churchill Gardens estate; it is within 500 yards of Parliament. It was the oldest boys’ club and is now a boys and girls’ club. A phenomenal amount of resource was put in to ensure that there were sports clubs and teams. There are also opportunities for dance and music lessons.
The club desperately requires funding. The local authority is not able to give it the funds it has had in recent years. We have tried to build up a trust, so that relatively wealthy people living nearby are able to put in money. It is helpful—not so much in keeping people off the streets, although that is one distinct element of it—and its catchment area goes well beyond the immediate vicinity of Westminster. The clubs that it puts in place go south of the river.
That opportunity for distraction, provided by clubs in particular, is, as the right hon. Member for Tottenham said, something that we middle-class parents can often provide for our children almost as a matter of course, without recognising that for many others costs and more general factors make the opportunity much more limited. I hope that in such areas we can try to wean people off gang culture, although it is extremely difficult. Even if there were a direct economic choice between a job and the attraction of cheap and easy money, compatible with a chaotic lifestyle, it would be difficult to wean many long-standing gang members away. Aspiration is an issue: paucity of aspiration and of expectation.
I want to finish with one other observation. I do not want to play down the importance of the issues. I have a feeling that, although we have not had to worry about gang culture in my constituency, we may go beyond the critical mass in a year or two, if we do not nip things in the bud today. However, we must also recognise there are many unsung, relatively quiet young men and women in our communities, doing a phenomenally good job. They work hard and have developed aspirations. Perhaps it is self-discipline that has brought that about, rather than anything from their family. They are unsung heroes and I hope that they will play their part in improving their communities in years to come. It is important that we should not look on young people as simply problematic. We can be proud of them, while we do our level best to tackle the problems addressed in the debate.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on opening the debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) on initiating it. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) would also like to take part, but she cannot be here today.
Lewisham is by and large a safe place to live. People generally get on with one another. Children play in our parks, and I shall walk home from the station tonight without fear. I mention that because my experience of Lewisham is probably different from that of some of my younger constituents, who have seen the lives of friends and family devastated by serious youth violence. My perception of Lewisham is probably different from that of local parents who are worried about the safety of their children. In the past four years, there have been 67 incidents of known gang-related crime in the borough, four of which resulted in someone dying. In the same period, there were 673 instances of gun and knife crime, and 17 people were killed. I do not quote those figures to sensationalise; I do it so that everyone will be clear about the scale of the problem.
In the past few months, since the riots, gangs seem to be back on the Government’s agenda. Whether the subject is a cross-departmental taskforce to look at ways to deal with gang culture, or extensions to gang injunctions, Ministers want to talk about gangs. It is all very well to be interested in gangs now, but with the exception of Brooke Kinsella’s report last year and the announcement in February of some ring-fenced funding to tackle gang, gun and knife crime, the Government have been dangerously slow off the mark in addressing the challenges posed by gangs and gang violence.
Last September, in an Opposition-day debate, I urged the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice to look at ways of tackling material that appears on the internet glorifying gang membership and the carrying of knives. Video after video, filmed in a car park in Catford in the heart of my constituency, is put on YouTube. They are often viewed as many as 16,000 times. Young men, or perhaps I should say boys, brandish knives in front of the camera as if they were cigarettes. I wrote to the Minister two days after the debate, providing him with an example of the footage and asking what action the Home Office would take. In November I wrote again, chasing a reply. In January I spoke to him after he appeared before the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, but to date I have not had any response to my inquiries; so when the Government talk tough on gangs and want to find someone and something to blame for the riots, I cannot help but wonder why they did not do more to address the sort of problems that many of us were bringing to their attention long before the riots.
If I am honest, I do not know what the Government can do to tackle the problem of online material such as the videos that I have described, but I fear that, if thousands of young people have viewed that footage and think that it is in some way cool, it would not be at all surprising if some of them also got caught up in thinking that some of the agitators in the riots were pretty cool, too.
The hon. Lady complains that the Government and perhaps the current Mayor of London have not produced the goods, as she would have liked, but it is only fair to mention that, in the past few years, 10,000 knives and guns have been taken off the street, in a widespread amnesty, and we have also ensured that there are an additional 1 million police patrols per year on the streets of London. It is also fair to say that that builds on what happened under Mayor Livingstone, but the trajectory has been in that direction: we have continued some of the important work done in our capital city in the past decade.
The hon. Gentleman acknowledged in his speech that in recent years there has also been an upward trajectory. He urged patience, and I am not sure that patience is possible in this situation, because young people are being killed and maimed on our streets. We need to tackle the situation urgently.
I have spoken about my frustration in trying to get the Government to examine the big issues, and I urge the Minister to update us on the conversations that he has had with companies such as YouTube about how, when the police know such videos are out there, they may perhaps be enabled to get that material taken down.
Having spoken about online manifestations of gangs, I want to turn to some of the wider action that is needed if we are to deal with a problem that blights the lives of too many young people in big cities. Yesterday, I visited XLP, a youth work charity based in my constituency. Its founder, Patrick Regan, is the author of “Fighting Chance: Tackling Britain’s Gang Culture”. I urge the Minister and all hon. Members who are present to read it. It is a powerful and enlightening contribution to the debate about why young people are involved in gangs, what solutions are needed and, indeed, what solutions work. Anyone who reads the book will realise that there is no magic wand to be waved to tackle the problem of gang violence. What is clear is the fact that any gang strategy must address all aspects of the problem. We must seek to understand the reasons behind gang involvement and, equally, why most kids do not get involved. Let us be clear: the vast majority of kids, even on some of the most challenging estates, are not involved.
To put it simply, if we are to tackle the problem of gangs, we must find a way to get those who are now in gangs out of them; we need to help those who are in prison as a result of being in gangs not to return to gangs when they come out; and we must help those who are caught up in gang violence to deal with their anger in different ways. Often, retaliation and reprisals lead to an escalation of violence. How do we stop things getting worse at that stage? Most importantly, we must prevent people from getting involved in the first place.
What should we do? My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham is completely right to talk about jobs. I have said before that young people in my constituency stop me in the street and say, “What are you going to do to help me get a job?” If young people do not have real opportunities, we will not reach a situation where they do not see involvement in gangs as the easy, quick-win solution. However, we need to do other things, such as getting youth-led projects into schools when young people are at the right age, so we can make it clear to them that, if they carry a knife, it could end up injuring them. We need to provide young people with accessible role models, who are in it for the long haul, giving the support and encouragement that may be missing in other parts of a young person’s life. We need to ensure that the one-to-one mentoring and encouragement that a young person in a pupil referral unit might need are available, and can be funded. We need to give confidential support to young people who present themselves at an A and E department with a stab wound, so that they can find a way out of some of the problems. As I have said before, we need to work with those who are in prison to give them a fulfilling life to get away from gangs on their release.
When I spoke to staff at XLP yesterday, I asked them what the Government should do to tackle the problem of gangs. They were clear in their response: jobs, a better balance between enforcement and engagement, and funding of initiatives that have been proven to work. XLP gets £10,000 a year from the Home Office. It has a track record in delivery, going into schools and doing the things that I have talked about. It is changing young people’s lives; it is probably saving their lives.
I say this to the Government: take the millions of pounds that they plan to spend on police and crime commissioners and invest the money in community-led projects that are already tackling gang and knife crime. Young lives are being lost in some of our big cities because of the violence associated with gangs. That has to stop. Talking tough is not going to solve the problem. A proper, thought-out and credible strategy, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham said, might give us a fighting chance of tackling some of the problems, and I implore the Minister to set out what the Government are going to do.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on opening the debate in a well informed manner, drawing on his constituency experience. He rightly concentrated on what we need to do to stop young people from going into gangs. I would like to focus a little on what measures senior police officers believe should be in place to tackle gangs in which young people are involved. The four measures that have been highlighted by the officers are: sound mechanisms for identifying gangs and gang-related problems; the ability to track gangs; tough enforcement; and the ability to signpost gang members out of gangs.
Regarding sound mechanisms for identifying gangs, there is clearly a role for safe neighbourhood teams on the ground and for grass-root organisations. At a higher level, we will have the national crime agency, which has to play an important role in identifying gangs, particularly when they go from being a gang into organised crime.
On tracking gangs, a number of hon. Members referred to the ongoing multi-agency work, such as safeguarding hubs in London and information-sharing hubs, where different bodies that have responsibility or have contact with gang members can pool their information to ensure that they are monitoring the young people as effectively as possible and bringing positive measures to bear on them. Clearly, there is a need for that information to be cross-borough, as the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) highlighted. Gangs cross borough boundaries, so having an information-sharing hub that is borough-based is not good enough; it needs to cross borough boundaries to work with neighbouring boroughs.
Regarding tough enforcement, there are now gang injunctions, although I have some reservations about the evidence threshold that will be used for them and about the cost, which senior officers have mentioned. That may be because we are at an early stage of using gang injunctions and there is a learning curve that has to be followed. However, I support the fact that gang injunctions have the power to compel young people to undertake certain positive activities, because that is a major plus point and will help with tough enforcement.
On signposting gang members out of gangs, a large range of organisations in the voluntary sector and in government provides activities. I understand that there is a database where such information is held, which may need updating. It includes details of organisations such as Kickz, Cricket for Change and a host of other effective organisations such as Voyage or Horizons, run by the Met Black Police Association. We need to ensure that the information is up to date so that, when a member is identified, the relevant activities can be signposted to them to help them out of their gang environment.
I know that, in such debates, it is easy to fire a long list of questions at a Minister, which he or she, unfortunately, will not have time to respond to at the end of the debate, so I will leave the Minister with just one point, which is about the Cardiff model. The principle behind the Cardiff model is that a hospital would communicate with the local police about where people with gunshot or knife wounds were coming from, to ensure that the police could bear down on a particular pub or estate where the problems were being generated. There is some confusion in London at the moment as to whether hospitals are doing that. I would like the Minister, now, if possible, or in writing, perhaps to the benefit of all hon. Members, to confirm that all hospitals, in London at least, have signed up to the Cardiff model. That model has generated a substantial drop in the number of serious injuries; I think the quoted figure is 40%. We want to see that effective model deployed across London and beyond, so that other parts of the country can experience the same drop in serious injuries.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. The first thing to say is that gangs are not a new problem: many of the issues being debated today have been raised in the past. What has become frightening in recent decades, going back to the 1980s, is that inner-city gangs who once upon a time would have solved their disputes with their fists began to do so with knives and guns.
There is sometimes an assumption that gang culture, knives and guns are all a euphemism for young black criminality, but let me put it on record that there is not a racial issue with gangs. People are often surprised when I say that the knife crime capital of Britain is neither Hackney nor Tottenham, but Glasgow, which has had a knife crime problem since the 1950s. Gangs are about a toxic convergence of collapse of existing economic structures, a hyper-masculine culture, and increasing materialism, which we are seeing in the 21st century. I wanted to nail that because some of the debates that we hear in the media would have us believe that the problem is one for a particular ethnic group.
Although we in the House often talk about gangs as if they were all the same, gang culture is quite complex. For instance, an increasing number of girls are involved in gangs; there are even girl-only gangs. Some gangs are more on the classic Kray and Richardson model, which are relatively organised groups of men in their 20s or older involved in systematic crime. Often, however—this is one of the big issues in areas such as mine—much younger children in their early or mid-teens are involved in gangs, which are entirely chaotic, using firearms because of issues of respect, such as if someone steps on their shoe in a night club. Such gangs are harder to deal with and less amenable to control than the more stable and relatively sophisticated adult gangs. The police have told me that adult gang members despair of teenage gangs because they are so chaotic and cause so much uproar and upheaval.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) said, gangs did not cause the London riots. Clearly, many gang members were involved in the riots and were on the streets of London, but the idea that the riots were a consequence of organised gang activity is almost too easy and stops us from looking at the complexities behind the issue.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned the problem of postcode gangs, which shows how hyper and how calcified gang culture has become in the past 20 years. I remember walking down my road—Middleton road in Dalston, Hackney—and a young man buttonholing me and saying, “What are you people going to do so that there are more facilities for me? Otherwise, there is nothing for me but crime.” I said, “What do you mean? We have just built a brand new swimming pool at the end of Middleton road in London Fields park.” He said, “You don’t understand. The park is in one gang’s territory, and I live at the other end of the road, in another gang’s territory.” That young man genuinely was not able to cross the boundary to go to the end of the road to use the facility. The postcode nature of gangs makes it difficult to work with young people and provide the leisure facilities and youth clubs that they want. We can pump a lot of money into a club, but a lot of young people will not set foot in it because it is in the wrong postcode.
We talk about gangs in an entirely judgmental and negative way, but we must consider what they offer our young people. Unless we understand that, we will not know how to contest the culture. For many young people, the gangs offer a family, a structure and people whom they can look up to. In a completely warped and criminal way, the gangs offer guidance on being a man. We must understand that and the breakdown in the family structure that has happened if we are seriously to engage with the issue of gang culture. Of course we need to spend money on law enforcement, but we must understand that the gangs offer many young people safety and a quasi-family structure, which they do not get anywhere else.
There is also a huge amount of peer group pressure on young men, particularly on young black men, to join gangs. I live in Hackney and have brought up a son in Hackney. It is very difficult for someone to walk down the streets in Hackney if they are not in a gang or do not know what streets to avoid. We cannot underestimate the peer group pressure on perfectly decent young men from decent families to get involved in this semi-criminal activity.
The final incentive for being in a gang is economic. Someone who does not have a job and has no prospect of having one will view a little drug dealing, a little drug running and a little this and that as an economic model.
I want to talk about education, which is not the responsibility of the Minister but relates strongly to the issue of gangs. By and large, young men who are in college doing their AS-levels are not on the streets involved in gangs. There is a direct relationship between educational failure and criminal activity. Years ago, Martin Narey, who is now the head of Barnardo’s, said, “On the day you permanently exclude a child from school, you might as well give them a date and time to turn up at prison.” Until we engage with the long-term issue of educational failure, we will not properly deal with the roots of the gang culture, which is something that I have worked on for many years.
A few weeks ago, I went to my sixth annual awards ceremony for London’s top-achieving black children. The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) was right when he said that for every one gang member there are thousands of young people in London who are trying hard, trying to get qualifications and trying to move forward. It is important that we do not see all our young people, particularly those in minority ethnic groups, through the prism of gang culture, because there is so much more going on; there are so many young people who are really trying.
Clearly, gangs are a law enforcement issue, and it is appropriate that we will hear from the Home Office Minister and his shadow, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). None the less, gangs are complex. They cover issues of family, breakdown of employment and access to jobs. When I was a child, my father was a sheet metal worker—he left school at 14 in Jamaica. Every day that God sent, he went to work. On Friday, he would come home with a brown wage packet and give pocket money and a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate to my brother and me. We grew up believing that a real man goes out to work and looks after his family, but the children on my estates have never seen that. Very often, they are in households with no male, let alone a male who gets up every day and goes to work. In the absence of that family structure, the lure of the gang with the apparent easy money, the glamour and the girls is strong.
There are issues of family structure, education and educational failure. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham said, pupil referral units—I do not mean to disrespect the people who work in them—are often little training academies for gangs. There are also issues of law enforcement and of resources. However, we must remember that each and every gang member, however frightening they may be and however abhorrent and criminal the activity they engage in, is someone’s child. There would have been a point in their lives at which, with the right intervention and the right diversion, they could have been put on the right path.
The Minister will talk about the law enforcement issues, but we also need a holistic strategy if we are to save a generation of young men of all colours and all ethnicities from a life of the street and the gangs. We all know that the life of a gang member is often very short. If these young men could see what awaits them, whether it is prison or dying in the road in a pool of blood, the immediate attraction of gangs would not be so apparent. It is for us as politicians and as members of the community to offer holistic strategies on the gang culture.
Thank you, Mr Caton, for allowing me three or four minutes to sum up this matter from the Back Benches. I speak as someone who spent 15 years at the criminal Bar. I was involved in nine different murder trials and prosecuted far too many punch-ups in the pub and knife crimes, in criminal courts up and down the country. I was also a specialist in relation to special educational needs and the special educational needs and disability tribunal. I advised multiple local authorities on the matter of statements.
I may represent 1,150 square miles of beautiful Northumberland countryside, but the east end of Hexham is a complex and difficult area. Sure Start, the Hexham East Number 28 project run by the Hexham community partnership and the Hexham East residents association, and the local police have dramatically turned the area around.
I notice that there is nobody here from Scotland, which is a great shame. Although I do not denigrate the amazing work that has been done by so many in London, there is no question that the essence of gangs derives from Scotland, both in relation to the knife crime that was alluded to by the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the tremendous success in dealing with the issue. I applaud the work of Karen McCluskey who is pioneering the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, which is based on Operation Ceasefire that was used in Boston. It is a fantastic scheme and should be supported. Sadly, because of illness, I missed the House’s debate on the riots, but the Prime Minister was right to praise and support the work of Karen McCluskey. Thanks to her there has been about a 50% reduction in murder and knife crime in her city. I urge the Minister to support her scheme and use it as a model to be rolled out in other places.
Finally, the vast majority of young men who were involved in the incidents in London and in various other parts of the country had a criminal record or had undergone some sort of custodial treatment, whether in a young offenders institution or in prison. Clearly, one cannot generalise but I must do my best in the minute that is left to me. The three issues that we must address in relation to young offenders institutions and prisons are literacy, which dovetails into education—clearly, the literacy and education of these young men and women is extremely poor—skills, and the revolution around drugs. If we address those issues, as part of the reform of prisons and young offenders institutions, we will be able to grab the people who have slipped through the net at an earlier stage.
I am delighted to be making my first speech as a shadow Home Affairs Minister on the issue of gangs. Like many of the Members here, I have lived and breathed this issue for many years as a resident, an MP and a community activist. In that spirit, let me put it on the record that I am sad that my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) cannot be here because I know how strongly and passionately he feels about the matter. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field), the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) and for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) for their contributions. What we are seeing today is a strong commitment from all parts of the House to tackle the issues that are driving gangs in communities across Britain. Clearly, many of us in London are living with these issues on a day-to-day basis, but we recognise, as the hon. Member for Hexham pointed out, that these problems are experienced across the country and as such they deserve a joined-up approach.
With that in mind, my contribution on behalf of the Opposition is a reflection on what is important in terms of the evidence base that we draw on when we have conversations about gangs. I am mindful that the Government have said that they will bring forward a gangs strategy in October. I want to ensure that the lessons that have been very well drawn out in the debate today—about the need for a joined-up approach and for a range of Government Departments and partners at national, local and community levels to be involved—and some of the concerns that we have about the ability of that work to happen, are made clear.
It is important to have two debates on this subject this week. This debate about gangs is different from the debate about riots that will happen later this week. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham pointed out, these issues have existed in our communities for many years. What we saw over the summer was not a reflection of those issues, but it was informed by them. It is important to draw that distinction.
It is also important to have a clear understanding about what gangs are. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington made that point very well. When we talk about “gangs”, sometimes we all think that we are talking about the same thing but actually we are not. I am mindful of the work of Professor John Pitts, who made a number of studies about the nature of gangs in our communities. In fact, he studied my own community in Waltham Forest and he came up with six different typographies of what a gang might be.
It is helpful to think about the difference between the organised and serious crime gangs that we see in the UK—there are estimates that about 30,000 people are serious, hardened criminals who are part of those gangs—and the gangs that we have talked about more today: the gangs of young people who are drawn together in our communities, sometimes involuntarily. Professor Pitts talks about the “reluctant gangster”, the young people who feel they have no option but to be part of a gang in their local community, either to gain protection or to get opportunities that they do not feel they are getting in other parts of their lives. We must understand that we need approaches that tackle both those types of activities, rather than simply having one approach. That is also important given what my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said about recognising that this issue affects not just young men and that increasingly young women are a part of gangs, and also a part of the solution in terms of addressing how we might tackle gangs.
When the Government are looking at gangs, although we may only be starting to understand the nature of gangs in our communities and the variety of gangs that we must address, it is important to remember that a lot of good work has already been undertaken in local communities and indeed at national level. I urge the Minister to draw heavily on the joint thematic report that was produced last year, which I found to be a very useful guide. I think that the hon. Member for Hexham also drew on it, when he talked about the importance of the youth offending teams and the work of the youth offending institutions in tackling gangs. The joint thematic report was a very useful guide to some of the good work that is going on to join up services. It looked at some of the challenges that exist, including what we can do from Whitehall to join up services and to help to co-ordinate action.
The borough of Waltham Forest in my constituency has had a problem with gangs and so has been piloting a range of ways of dealing with gangs. I feel strongly that that work is important, not least because today—purely by coincidence—a young man’s family is coming to visit me in Parliament to meet Louise Casey and to talk about people who are victims of gangs. Eze Amosu was a young man killed by a gang in my community. When we talk about gangs and how we might approach them, it is important that we recognise that young people are primarily the victims of those gangs. It is important to support victims’ families too in the work that we do.
We know the importance of a joined-up model. As I said, Waltham Forest has been one of the areas piloting a range of activities, following on from the Strathclyde model that the hon. Member for Hexham talked about. The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington was also right to talk about the Cardiff model and how we join up the reporting of what is going on in hospitals. The police are sometimes late to the game in terms of knowing where gangs are and what incidents have occurred. We have seen some real progress in the past couple of years in working together to identify people who have been victims of gang crime and in supporting them to come forward, either to remove them from gangs or to help to bring prosecutions.
What do those lessons teach us? They teach us, not least, the lesson that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham referred to, about the tricky question of resourcing the work to tackle gangs. As I think the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster accepted in his contribution, such work is an investment and joining up those services to get a preventive approach rather than a curative approach is the way forward.
Bearing that in mind, I have some concerns about the future of some of the projects that have worked so far. I am particularly mindful of family intervention projects, which we know are facing cuts. Also, our youth offending teams face cuts. When we are looking at cuts of 20% in our youth offending teams, and indeed at some youth offending teams being cut entirely, as we have seen in Cornwall, many of us have genuine concerns about the nature of the expertise that we may have to draw on in tackling gangs and what might happen to that expertise in the years ahead.
It is also important to look at some of the projects that are peer-led. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East talked strongly about the importance of young people themselves addressing some of the concerns about gangs. We have seen some fantastic work with projects such as Leap that teach conflict prevention in schools. Equally, Citizens UK has promoted safe havens. Young people themselves have identified such places. All of us who know about the “postcode wars” recognise the concerns that many young people have about going from street to street. We are also mindful of the experience that they have in places that can offer them safety. That work is important.
Even if we are aware of individual projects, the challenge is how we draw all these issues together. That is the test that I want to set the Minister today. If the Government are serious about tackling gangs, policing must be more than a deterrent; it must be part of a preventive approach. In that sense, there are some real tests for the work that must be done across Government.
First and foremost, the Minister must challenge his colleagues within the Department for Education about what is happening to our youth services and more generally about what is happening to the role of schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington put it incredibly well when she talked about the importance of schools in these relationships. When we are seeing the unhooking of the relationships between local authorities and schools, we are seeing a challenge to young people’s ability to achieve educational attainment. On a more pragmatic level, safer neighbourhoods partnerships and safer schools partnerships rely on those relationships being in place. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham put it well when he talked about those relationships continuing but on an ad hoc basis. Those relationships are too important for funding and support for them to be unhooked. I hope that the Minister will challenge those within the DFE who are complacent about this issue.
We have already talked about cuts in youth services; some areas are facing cuts of 100%. Without the people who can work at the grass-roots level in our community—to bring the intelligence, and to build relationships between the police and young people—our ability to tackle some of the issues that lead to gang membership will be compromised as well.
On a long-term basis, I hope that the Minister will challenge his colleagues within the Department for Work and Pensions about the issues of unemployment, particularly the cancellation of the future jobs fund. With 50,000 young people in London now out of work, it simply does not make sense to cancel one of the key programmes to help young people who want to get on and make positive choices about the kinds of careers they can have. I hope that the Minister will challenge his colleagues in the DWP accordingly.
Many of us have already talked about the importance of investment in communities and grass-roots projects. I have already touched on the role of youth offending teams and the concerns that we have about the cuts to those teams. However, this process is also about the partnerships that we can build with the voluntary sector and those on the ground in our communities. Many of the youth workers in Walthamstow who I have worked with in the past 18 months have had their funding either scaled back or cut entirely. Clearly, that affects their ability to be out on the streets and to build relationships with our young people to help them to make good choices in their lives. It also affects their ability to work with the police, both when we have events such as we saw over the summer—when we have riots—and in the longer term to build positive relationships.
I also hope that the Minister will challenge the Mayor of London, because one of the central parts of our relationships in London has been the role of the safer neighbourhoods teams and particularly in my area the sergeants who have been able to work on gathering intelligence, and on building relationships with voluntary sector partners and with young people themselves. Clearly, losing 300 sergeants in London will impact on our ability to build those relationships and to work in those ways.
It is not just about the Minister challenging his colleagues in other parts of Government. I also urge him to rethink the proposals on CCTV. The basic ability of the police to monitor where young people are travelling around and where there are gang incidents, and therefore to respond quickly before those incidents escalate and knives or other weapons are drawn, is critical. In my local area, CCTV has played a role in that police activity.
The Government must also consider their approach to antisocial behaviour orders. In Hackney, the police have used ASBOs to great effect to tackle some of the problems around gangs. I know that people have raised concerns about the gang injunctions. I urge the Minister to look again at the evidence on how those measures have been used to deal with some of the issues around gang behaviour.
Above all, the relationship that the police can have with communities is crucial. At a time when we are facing cuts in our policing budget, it is clearly difficult for the police to think in the longer term, yet there has never been a greater need for them to do so. When we are seeing unemployment and poverty rising, the landscape in which the police will be operating will be very difficult. To build those relationships with communities, they need to be able to have the people on the ground. Poverty is not a cause of gangs, it is not an excuse for gangs and it does not explain gangs, but it creates a landscape in which all the work that many of us have talked about today—work that can be the answer to some of the issues about gangs—is harder to do.
I hope that the Minister will take on board some of the concerns that we have expressed that some of the things that are happening in other parts of Government will undermine his ability to address gangs, and that he will act accordingly. I hope that the Government’s gangs strategy in October will be cross-Government, that the police will play their part and therefore that the Minister will champion such approaches. Otherwise, I fear we shall be holding similar debates in the years ahead, with the evidence worsening monthly. All of us who care about our constituencies and our country foresee the consequences.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on initiating the debate and on his thoughtful discussion of the long-term issues with which we must grapple, especially the challenge of gangs.
I welcome the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) to the Front Bench and wish her luck. I look forward to working with her—constructively, I hope—because I do not believe that there needs to be partisan disagreement over some of the issues that we must challenge. Although some Members picked up on particular aspects of the Government’s approach, which I shall deal with. There is more to agree about over the long-term issues—for example, exclusion and the need to tackle it.
Let me put the issue in context. Of the 4,000 people arrested in the disorders, two thirds were under 25, but only one in eight were known from police records to be a gang member. Although I say “only”, that clearly is a large number. However, we must understand that gang membership is a significant part of the problem, but not the only part—it is symptomatic of the wider youth violence that we must tackle. Gang members were often involved in offences at the more serious end of the spectrum—for example, in Birmingham, police officers were fired on by armed gangs.
It is important that we tackle gangs and the emerging problem of gang activity in some cities, but we cannot believe that that is where the problem ends, because the wider issues of offending in the riots must also be tackled. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Justice announced that three quarters of defendants who appeared in relation to the disorder had previous convictions, and that the average number of offences was 15. A third of those defendants had served prison sentences.
Another lesson we must take from the disorder that goes beyond the issue of gangs is that we have high rates of reoffending, which is no surprise to those who have studied the performance of the criminal justice system for years, and that young people are entering the criminal justice system and finding themselves caught in a cycle of criminality. We must therefore focus on effective reform of the system.
There has been agreement in this short debate that the solution is not enforcement alone, important though it is. Tools are available, including gang injunctions, which we propose to extend to those aged 14 to 17, and effective policing, which will always be a significant component of any response to violence. Opposition Members acknowledged the Prime Minister’s response to the riots, in which he announced a cross-Government programme of work led by the Home Secretary that will tackle gangs and gang violence and report to Parliament by the end of the month. The report will be evidence led, as it should be, and will focus not simply on enforcement, but on the wider issues that have to be addressed. The programme has looked at the evidence of successful interventions from abroad and in Glasgow and Manchester, both of which the Home Secretary visited recently.
The right hon. Member for Tottenham was slightly disparaging about what he described as US advisers—Bill Bratton is giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee this morning—but we must take advice and learn from success in our country and internationally. This week, we are convening an international forum on ending gang violence at which people from Europe and the United States will share the benefit of their experience. The Home Secretary has announced that we propose to set up an ending youth violence team, which will draw on independent advice. More will be said about it in due course.
It is common ground that we must focus on early intervention—the earlier the better. The fact that there is serial reoffending is partial evidence that some of the earliest interventions are either not occurring or not working. I agree with the hon. Member for Walthamstow that we must acknowledge the police’s role in crime prevention as well as in enforcement. Sir Robert Peel’s first principle of policing was to prevent crime and disorder, and it remains true today.
Members rightly drew attention to the importance of effective local partnerships, which we seek to promote. One of the significant features of learning in the past few years has been that effective partnerships between agencies can make a difference in crime prevention and effective interventions. Agencies and local authorities are under a statutory duty to be members of community safety partnerships.
In the little time available, I want to challenge the premise that the solution is money and the fact that we are having to save money means that we cannot find solutions. We have ensured that programmes are targeted on, for example, knife crime, with £18 million worth of initiatives that the Home Secretary announced following Brooke Kinsella’s recommendations on combating knife crime. If money was the solution, there would not be a problem, because there has been record spending on the criminal justice system and public services. We must hold a more hard-headed debate on the effectiveness of interventions, rather than assume that resources will be the whole solution. They cannot be the whole solution, nor can we lay the blame for youth violence on cuts.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) spoke about information sharing and the coalition commitment on hospital information. We intend to ensure that that applies across the country, and I shall write to update him on where we are with that.