The Government have published a serious violence strategy that sets out a range of actions to tackle knife crime, including a national media campaign, continuing support for police action under Operation Sceptre, an offensive weapons Bill and a new round of the Community Fund.
Does the Secretary of State agree that we need a multi-faceted approach to tackling knife crime? It is essential that we not only disrupt but educate those people who are likely to offend, but it is also important that we retain a high likelihood of imprisonment for anyone who refuses to stop carrying a knife.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Offenders need to know that if they commit serious crimes, a prison cell awaits them. That is a huge deterrent, and it is also very much a part of the serious violence strategy.
Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the prevalence of knife crime in Essex over the past year. Some of it is associated with county lines drugs operations moving out into Essex from the capital. What action is the Home Secretary’s Department taking, in association with the Essex police, to fight this menace on our streets?
I know that the police in Essex taking this issue seriously. Among the actions that they are taking, one thing I would encourage them to do more of is to apply to the Community Fund and to focus a bit more on early intervention, which I know they are interested in and have done successfully before. They have received funding for such projects before, and I would encourage them to seek it again.
We know that prevention lies at the heart of much of the knife crime issue, but there are things that can be done now. The former Home Secretary, who is here today, told the Home Affairs Committee that she would look at using more criminal behaviour orders for people who have been convicted of knife crime to stop them from going on social media to get the attention that they crave. Will the Home Secretary look at that issue?
The hon. Lady is right that much more can be done that does not require legislation, meaning it can be done more quickly. She talked about criminal behaviour orders. We are looking at that very issue and seeing whether their use can be expanded.
Will the Home Secretary match the £2 million that the West Midlands police and crime commissioner has managed to scrape together to tackle gangs and knife and violent crime with early intervention schemes, mediation programmes and other initiatives? Will he meet me and a cross-party delegation of MPs from the region to discuss how we can work together to tackle the issue?
I commend the work that is being done locally by West Midlands police to fight violent crime, particularly knife crime, and I am sure that the funds that it has put to use will make a difference. I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and other local Members of Parliament to discuss the matter further.
Perhaps my hon. Friend listened to or heard about the speech I gave to the Police Federation just last week, when I said that the police should be examining all the powers that they currently have, including stop and search. Whenever they think that it is appropriate, they should not hesitate to use it because that will help all communities.
I am sure that we are all as one in wishing to tackle knife crime, but it is the framework of law either side of the Scottish border that interests me. In Scotland, 16 to 18-year-olds can purchase kitchen knives, yet it is a short drive from Coldstream in Scotland to Alnwick in England. Should we not harmonise the laws on either side of the border to tackle knife crime?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Devolution means that it makes sense to co-operate on many important issues, and this is one of them. We hope that the new offensive weapons Bill will be supported by the Scottish Government and that they will take similar action.