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Knife Crime

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

In the 12 months to June 2011, data collected by police forces in England and Wales indicate that 7% of relevant violent offences involved the use of a knife or a sharp instrument.

Knife crime affects every community. In my constituency, following the senseless murder of Leon Jones who was just 21, a group was set up called Dump the Knife—Save a Life. That was young people working with the police and the local community. Can the Minister ensure that funding for such groups will be available in the future, following the announcement of a cut of some 60% in community budgets?

I appreciate the value of groups such as the one the hon. Gentleman describes and am happy to look at it. We have made £18 million of funding available for the next two years to support the police, local agencies and the voluntary sector in tackling knife, gun and gang-related violence, and I would be happy to talk with him about the project.

I am grateful to Ministers for supporting the “Carry a basketball not a blade” initiative in my constituency, but knife crime has risen in London every year since the current Mayor was elected. What more will the Minister do to press the Mayor to get on top of this terrible problem in London?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that knife crime is a serious concern, which is why the Government, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has just pointed out, have introduced a new offence of aggravated carrying of a knife. We need to send clear signals and there needs to be effective police action. He knows that the Mayor has been promoting that in London with his knife crime plan, Operation Blade, and we will continue to support those efforts.

Is not the key to cutting knife crime the sending of a clear social message that anyone who commits a crime with a knife or gun will go to prison, actions that this Government have taken, along with the excellent ideas that Brooke Kinsella has come up with?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is about tough enforcement and sending a clear signal that those who carry knives and use them in a threatening manner will receive a custodial sentence, which we are legislating for, and about the programmes that work with communities to deter people from using knives. That is what Brooke Kinsella’s excellent report focused on.

In the past 10 days alone victims of knife crime have included a poppy seller in Sussex, a father attending a first birthday party in Mitcham and a young man trying to stop a fight in Walthamstow on Friday night. Given the scale of cuts to policing and community safety budgets that the Government are implementing under the Home Secretary’s watch, does she think that knife crime will continue to go up or go down next year?

I share the hon. Lady’s concern about knife crime, which is why we are introducing the measures I have announced on strong enforcement and the important community programmes to deter people from carrying knives, but I notice that her question did not include a single positive proposal for dealing with knife crime, other than the usual Labour party proposal, which is to spend more money.