I beg to move,
That this House has considered serious violence.
We cannot ignore the rise of serious violence. Already this year we have seen seven fatal stabbings on London’s streets. I have met families of victims and seen at first hand the devastation that brutal violence can cause. I have seen police on the frontline working flat out to make our streets safer, and we must of course all do that we can to help them.
As Home Secretary, my No. 1 priority is to keep Britain safe. To do this, I am tackling serious violence head-on. As the threat has increased, so too has our response. I have listened to expert advice and acted wherever and whenever I could. I have been relentless in this mission so far, but it is clear that more must be done to stop this senseless slaughter; for the sake of all our young people, we are determined to deliver. That is why we published our serious violence strategy last April. We set out a tough law enforcement response that made it clear that this alone was not enough.
The strategy placed a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, preventing young people from being drawn into violence in the first place. It stressed the importance of a multi-agency response, with education, health, social services, housing, youth services and others all playing a part. The strategy also pinpointed the importance of tackling the drivers of serious violence, including the changes in drugs markets. Changes in the way drugs dealers operate and the rise of county lines gangs are fuelling the brutality on our streets. Social media also play a part, with gangs taunting each other online and ratcheting up tension and the risk of reprisal attacks. The strategy addressed those and other risk factors, such as exclusion from school. It set out our plans to do all we can to reduce serious violence.
We are delivering on the commitments we made in the strategy, and we are doing much more. I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on some of the progress we have made so far. First, we are tackling the root causes of violence and investing in our young people’s future. Our early intervention youth fund of £22 million is already supporting 29 projects in England and Wales, and more than £17 million has already been allocated to projects delivering interventions to young people at risk of criminal involvement, gang exploitation or county lines. The remainder of the money has been earmarked to help young people over the next two years. Indeed, our investment is increasing, with an additional £200 million for the youth endowment fund.
Secondly, we are taking a multi-agency public health approach to tackling violent crime. Cracking down on serious violence will take the whole of society: everyone has to play a part, so in October I launched this comprehensive new approach. This was underpinned by a package of measures including the youth endowment fund and the independent drugs misuse review. We will consult shortly on a new statutory duty on all Government Departments and public agencies to tackle serious violence. This will ensure that the whole of the public sector is playing its part to the max, working together on serious violence with everyone treating it as a priority.
Thirdly, we have introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill. We are taking a tough law enforcement approach to ensure that those who turn to violence have nowhere to hide. The Bill will close the net around violent criminals by giving the police more powers to tackle knives, acids and firearms. It will make it harder for young people to possess and purchase these dangerous weapons. The Bill will shortly complete its passage through the House of Lords.
Fourthly, I have announced the introduction of knife crime prevention orders. I have been clear that I will not sit back and wait another decade for the current cycle of violence to end. We continue to look at what more we can do, so no options are off the table if they can save lives. The police asked for this extra tool, so I intend to introduce these orders through an amendment to the Bill. Some people have expressed concerns, and I understand that. They have suggested that the orders are designed to criminalise young people, but that is absolutely not the case. The orders will be preventive, not a punishment. They will enable the police and other agencies to help those who are most vulnerable to carrying a knife to escape a life of escalating violence.
I would not quite say that it will be in a random way. The orders can be placed only with the permission of the courts. A police officer will suggest that an order is placed on an individual, but the courts will independently oversee that. The orders can carry a number of restrictions. They will be used, for example, in cases where the police believe there is a high risk of an individual being drawn into carrying knives and even using them, perhaps because he or she has been hanging out with the wrong kind of people, including those who have already been convicted of gang membership, carrying knives or serious violence. The measures will allow the police to ensure that the order is being observed, but I would not use the phrase “in a random way”.
I thank my right hon. Friend for letting me intervene again to rephrase my question. I do not mean stopping someone in a “random” way, but in a checking way to ensure that the knife crime prevention order is working and that, if the police are worried, they can stop the person and just check him or her.
I agree. My hon. Friend puts it appropriately. It is worth taking this opportunity to emphasise that the whole purpose of the order is to prevent people, especially young people, from being drawn into a life of crime in the first place. It is a preventive measure. The police have asked for it and it is supported by the Mayor of London. The serious violence taskforce has discussed it with experts, and it should be considered carefully by the House.
Fifthly, we are doing what we can to dismantle county lines—a horrific and often highly violent form of criminal child exploitation. We have provided £3.6 million to establish a new national county lines co-ordination centre. This will enhance intelligence sharing across the country to ensure that vulnerable children are being identified and safeguarded, and we are already starting to see some good results. Since the centre became fully operational in September, it has carried out two separate weeks of co-ordinated national action, resulting in over 1,100 arrests and 1,000 individuals safeguarded.
Sixthly, we are supporting the police response to serious violence. We know that the demands on police are high, and rising violent crime is stretching them even further. That is why we are giving them the support they need, raising police funding by up to £970 million next year, including council tax. I am delighted that police and crime commissioners collectively plan to strengthen their forces as a result and are consulting on plans to use their additional funding to recruit 2,800 officers. This will help to fight serious violence on the ground. It represents the biggest uplift in police funding since 2010, yet it is notable that some Members did not vote for the settlement.
We continue to back Operation Spectre—co-ordinated national police action on knife crime. The results of this latest drive speak for themselves, with over 1,000 arrests and more than 9,000 knives already taken off the streets. In addition, last year I announced £1.4 million to support a new national police hub to tackle gang-related activity online. It will be fully operational from May, focusing on disrupting criminality and referring content to social media companies to be removed. These companies must be prepared to do much more, and I have already been very clear that I am prepared to legislate if they do not play their part.
Finally, we are acting to tackle the drivers of serious violence. As part of our public health package, I launched an independent drugs misuse review to investigate how the trade is fuelling serious violence. Earlier this month I appointed Professor Dame Carol Black to lead that vital work, and I take this opportunity to thank her for her efforts.
I hope the importance that I place on tackling serious violence is very clear. I have no greater priority than saving lives, providing peace of mind that our loved ones will be safe when they step out the door, and making everyone feel secure on our streets. I have set out our approach and the range of work that is under way to try to achieve those aims, how that has been stepped up since I became Home Secretary, and how we will continue to strive to do more. This Conservative Government are clear that this senseless violence must stop, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that happens. I commend this motion to the House.
Few aspects of crime frighten our constituents more than violent crime. The sad truth is that, under this Government, violent crime continues to spiral.
I begin by declaring a personal interest and concern. I have been an MP in the heart of the east end for 30 years. I am immensely proud of being a Hackney MP. It is an amazing community, and we lead the way in tech, fashion, fine art, music and all types of culture, but a person cannot live and work in Hackney for the number of years I have and not be aware of the harsh reality of violent crime. For my constituents and me, violent crime is not just a newspaper story but the cause of tragic incidents that haunt friends and neighbours and regularly scar our community.
Let me remind the House of the parameters of the violent crime wave we face. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics reveal that violent crime soared 19% to 1.5 million offences in the year to last September. Consider that for a moment: it equates to an average of more than 4,000 offences a day. The ONS also reports that it includes a 14% rise in homicides and an 8% rise in knife crime, which equates to 110 knife offences daily. Murder and manslaughter are at their highest levels for more than a decade.
The Home Secretary sometimes tries to hide behind the fact that the rising figures are the result of better reporting and recording. That may be a factor for some types of crime, but the ONS says:
“We have also seen increases in some types of ‘lower-volume, high-harm’ violence including offences involving knives or sharp instruments.”
To look at the issue of violent crime from another perspective, there has been a 15% increase in the number of hospital admissions in England for assaults involving a sharp instrument. That is not better police recording; it is our A&E units across the country being swamped by the effects of serious violence. In fact, a report published by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in 2014 found that violent offences had actually been substantially under-recorded by 33% nationally. We are in the middle of a crisis.
Behind the statistics are a thousand personal tragedies: the victims of violence; the people who have been robbed or attacked on the street; the innocent young men and women caught up in the crossfire in a club or on the street where they live; the vulnerable young people caught up in the drugs trade, and possibly the county lines phenomenon; the mothers who lie awake most nights until their son or daughter returns home; the parents who dread the phone call from the police or the hospital to tell them that a family member has come to harm; and the young men who will never come home again.
As the Home Secretary reminds us, almost a year ago his predecessor launched the new Home Office serious violence strategy. The strategy has many theoretical elements that the Opposition would support, but we contend whether the money made available for it actually offsets all the cuts in local government funding that have contributed to the crime wave we now see. I will return to that subject.
Ministers’ responses to violent crime have included calling for more stop-and-search, knife crime prevention orders and asking the internet companies to stop videos that glorify violence. All those ideas have their merits, but I stress to the House that random, non-evidence-based stop-and-search has never worked. Properly targeted stop-and-search can play its part in reducing crime but, in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio got rid of what they call “stop and frisk” altogether and crime went down.
When she was Home Secretary, the current Prime Minister came to the realisation that random stop-and-search does not work, because that is what the Home Office’s own research reveals. The Opposition can only speculate on how long it will take the current Home Secretary to come to that understanding.
There were also concerns about knife crime prevention orders. We have to contemplate that, on the grounds purely of suspicion, people as young as 12 will be targeted, put on a curfew and prevented from accessing the internet. There are already laws against the carrying of knives, threatening to use them and actually using them, but there is a problem with enforcing those laws. That issue relates to police numbers and person power, and I will return to that point.
The shadow Home Secretary is mentioning powers against knife crime and enforcing them. Does she believe it was wrong for the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor to oppose the change in legislation in 2014 that means anyone caught carrying a knife twice would face a custodial sentence?
The idea that the answer to knife crime is a simplistic multiplication of the sentence mistakes the drivers behind knife crime, which I will come to later in my remarks.
The new orders stopping young people from accessing the internet appear reasonable at first sight, but have Ministers never heard of young people creating multiple online identities? Labour Members have grave concerns about how these orders will be used, with the possibility that they will target poor communities, and black and minority ethnic boys and girls. We have yet to be given the reassurances that care will be taken to ensure that particular communities and groups of young people will not be unfairly targeted.
I agree with the Home Secretary that the internet giants have a role to play here in the type of material they allow, but, as he will know, that is true in respect of all sorts of crimes, from online fraud to child pornography and terrorism. All of that is too easy online, and the Government must do more than have a cosy chat with the companies that allow it. So I was glad to hear him say that he is actually prepared to act. It is long overdue for the Government to use their powers against companies that fail to act on these issues.
However, the underlying problem with violent crime is that there is also a crisis in policing. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to say that the police are having the biggest increase in grant since 2010, but this Government and their predecessors since 2010 have imposed austerity policies on the police, as they have done in every other area of our public services.
The result is there for all to see: since 2010, 21,000 policemen and women have been axed by Tory-led Governments of one kind or another. That has undermined the entire capacity of the police services in this country to tackle crime of all types, including violent crime. Community policing has been decimated. Every MP in this debate, on either side of the House, will know of the negative consequences that the fall in police numbers has had in their area: the lower police presence; the decimation of community policing; tardiness in responding to 999 calls, with them sometimes not getting replied to until the next day; and the resultant fall in public confidence.
The Home Secretary talks about increasing investment, but the cuts across almost every other area of public spending have helped to fuel the rise in crime, including the rise in violent crime. Those cuts, particularly as they fall on local authorities, have exacerbated the causes of crime. They include the crisis in housing, growing inequality, and the crisis in our schools, including school exclusions. Too many pupil referral units are just academies for crime.
A one-time director general of the Prison Service who went on to head Barnardo’s, Martin Narey, said that on the day when a child is expelled from school, we might as well give them a date and time to turn up at prison. Ministers have to pay more attention to this pipeline from educational failure—school failure—to the world of crime. The other issues that help to promote criminality are the hopeless job prospects for many of our young people, the collapse of the youth service in many areas of the country and the crisis in mental health care.
When we ask senior police officers, as I am sure the Home Secretary has done, they tell us, “You can’t arrest your way out of this”, and of course they are right. Rounding up whole drug gangs, as the police sometimes do, often means simply opening up turf wars as neighbouring gangs move into the vacant territory. Under this Government, the police cannot even make the arrests that they should be making, and arrest and conviction rates have plummeted.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, all our constituents engage with the question of violent crime with fear and concern. It is one thing to pay lip service to the causes of crime, including violent crime, as the Home Secretary did in his remarks, but the Opposition say that the rise in violent crime since 2010 is connected to the reluctance to give the police the funding they need to fight all types of crime. The violent crime epidemic that we face is at least partly to do with austerity, the policies of this Government and the funding of the police. The Opposition are committed, when the time comes, to taking serious, co-ordinated action to start to push back on this rise in toxic and frightening violent crime.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, which has great significance. The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens; that is why we have our outstanding armed forces, and why we have the police and the criminal justice system. I commend the police officers across my county of Essex. They often put themselves in harm’s way to do the right thing—to protect the public and bring to justice those responsible for serious crime. On that point, I give a special commendation to our police and crime commissioner, Roger Hirst, and to our new chief inspector, B. J. Harrington. Essex borders London and is part of the home counties. We face a range of issues, which the Home Secretary mentioned, including county lines and the associated criminality, which can travel quickly.
We all know of the heroic acts of bravery undertaken by the police, and we all have examples from our own constituencies. Each and every one of us knows of the sacrifices that our frontline officers make and the threats that they face daily. I also want to comment on the actions of others in our local communities—especially the voluntary sector and community groups, who work tirelessly and with great devotion to steer people away from criminality. They are the unsung heroes in our constituencies who bring calm, and who work with criminal enforcement agencies to prevent crime and steer young people, in particular, on to the right path.
Despite such efforts, there is a sorry state of affairs in our country today. Far too many criminals are walking our streets and acting with impunity. We have heard from the Home Secretary about the individuals who terrorise our communities. They target vulnerable children and adults, and they profit from causing harm and misery. All too often, the criminal justice system fails to stand up for the victims and fails to punish the perpetrators for the crimes that they commit.
We have heard many examples, and I am sure we will hear others from Members today, of cases in which the police have worked hard to gather evidence on offenders so that they can be prosecuted, brought to trial and found guilty, only for the courts to set them free or let them off the hook with soft sentences. That means that the offenders do not spend enough time in jail on rehabilitation, where people can spend time with them and invest in them as individuals so that they do not go back out and commit more offences.
I do not have time to go into all the many figures today, but the National Crime Agency has published a conservative estimate of the number of active county lines participants across the country. Those individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, and their lives are ravaged by a spiral of drugs, abuse, debt and crime. It is fair to say that we would urge the Government to strengthen the ability of our police to ensure that those responsible for organising criminal acts are subject to the right kind of actions in prison and in the criminal justice system so that they do not go back and destroy other people’s lives. That is something we should not forget.
In the few minutes I have, I would like to give two examples of where my constituents have been betrayed and let down by the justice system. The first involves a lady who was the victim of an abusive ex-partner. He inflicted serious violence on her over a prolonged period and beat her so severely and violently that she was left blinded in one eye. When she worked up the courage to seek justice, she was let down by the criminal justice system.
This vulnerable victim of domestic abuse was tormented over a prolonged period and had life-changing injuries, but the Crown Prosecution Service did not stand up for her and press for compensation or the right kind of justice for her. This is where we must look at not just police enforcement and serious crime, but how the whole criminal justice system stands up for victims. At the end of the day, we as Members of Parliament have a duty to victims of crime and to access justice for them so that they can get the right course of action.
The second case is that of a constituent who came to me recently, who was the victim of a serious violent assault last year in Brighton. He was beaten up and left injured—punched multiple times in an unprovoked attack. His injuries and recovery stopped him from working, and he lost his business. The offender was violent and aggressive. What kind of sentence did he receive? He received a 12-month community order and was made to do 80 hours of unpaid work and five days of rehabilitation, and to pay costs of £85. My constituent was awarded compensation of just £100. He said:
“I now have no job. I couldn’t work for a couple of weeks and because I was self-employed all my customers left.”
He has no sense that justice was done. He was a victim of crime, and he is still left suffering.
That is the point. Where is the justice? It is down to this Government to have a much more integrated approach. In fairness to the Home Secretary, he spoke in his remarks about how the severe problem of serious crime affects communities and individuals. However, we must square the circle: we must not allow perpetrators of crime to go and brag on Facebook, which is what happened in this case. We need to see and show that the Government have the right approach to the criminal justice system and that the punishment fits the crime.
To conclude, if we are to tackle serious and violent crime in our society, we have to use many methods—nobody in this House would dispute that. Yes, we need better education and more support for vulnerable people and those at risk of becoming serious and violent criminals: absolutely. We also need better rehabilitation for offenders. However, we cannot ignore the need to defend victims of crime, to keep our communities safe and to make sure that offenders face the right sanctions. Failure to do so means that public trust and confidence are undermined, and that is not what we want. It is down to the Government, through the actions that my right hon. Friend has spelled out, to ensure we have an integrated approach to serious crime and tackling the many issues that blight our communities.
The first responsibility of any Government is, of course, to keep their citizens safe. Much of that responsibility in Scotland falls to the Scottish Government, and it is worth while discussing the Scottish experience with violent crime.
Serious violence is an emotive subject in this Chamber and across the country. The emotive nature of the subject has meant that politicians are too often pushed towards reactionary and populist “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” policies without properly addressing the latter sentiment. These mistakes can be made because politicians can too often play into the public's fears or can perhaps be consumed by their own base instincts. More often than not, taking this tough Daily Mail, Old Testament approach is the easy thing to do—it is simply the politically expedient thing to do.
As much as I understand this urge—I am a politician—I believe we can aspire to a criminal justice system that is more effective at reducing crime, as well as to a fairer justice system that encompasses a whole-system approach that sees violent crime for what it is: as a societal disease that can be treated, and as a crime that is all too often based in poverty and that can be, if not eradicated, then reduced with a rational, systematic and evidence-based approach. I am therefore convinced that the public health approach is the best strategy to deal with violent crime, particularly knife crime, which is rampant on the streets of London at the moment. That approach was outlined almost two decades ago by the World Health Organisation and first implemented in Scotland. Its adoption elsewhere has been slow. The public health approach recognises that we all have a collective responsibility to tackle violent crime. It is an approach that emphasises rigorous and objective methods, using knowledge from a range of fields. It pools the best practices from everything—economics to education, sociology to medicine, and every discipline in between. In essence, it takes the best we have to offer and turns it on the worst problem we have in justice—generational violence.
Where attempted, the public health approach has been proven beyond doubt to work. It saves lives and allows people to live a life where violent crime is a much smaller risk: it gives peace of mind as we go through days already fraught with worry. It leads to safer communities, better social cohesion, and better mental health and security. The only regret I have is that these steps were not taken far sooner.
Scotland took the first steps towards the public health approach in 2005 when Strathclyde police launched a holistic public heath strategy. This strategy resulted in the creation of the violence reduction unit which has led the way in bringing Scotland to the lowest recorded crime rates in 40 years. The VRU goes by a simple, but powerful motto:
“Violence is preventable, not inevitable.”
Strathclyde Police was the only police force in the world, at the time, to adopt the public health approach and it is now a national centre of expertise on violence and visited by many UK Government Ministers. Since it was founded, it has led the way in good policy deliverance which is making a real positive impact on people’s lives and our communities across Scotland.
In 2005, violent crime in Scotland was at epidemic levels, and Glasgow was infamously crowned by the World Health Organisation as the murder capital of Europe. It was the same year that the United Nations called Scotland the most violent country in the developed world. The VRU carried out its own analysis and it showed that the areas where violence was most out of control were the most deprived: they had the highest rates of addiction, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and domestic abuse, the latter of which I will come on to address.
The Scottish Government provided the VRU with £12 million and has supported violence reduction and prevention programs such as Medics Against Violence, which targets young people who are at risk of being killed or becoming victims of serious life-changing injuries. Health volunteers are used to deliver education sessions in high schools focused on talking to young people about the consequences of violence and how to keep themselves safe. The Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme is another initiative by the Scottish Government which aims to empower young people to challenge and speak out against violent and abusive behaviour.
Fast forward to today, and Scotland has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a leader in violence reduction. Indeed, the UK Government have praised the approach that the Scottish Government have taken. Moreover, I have been heartened by the recent proactive, perceptive and progressive approach taken by Ministers in the Ministry of Justice and, to an extent, the Home Office. I wish them luck in advancing this approach in politically sensitive areas, such as the presumption against short sentences. Just last week, the chief executive of Community Justice Scotland, Karyn McCluskey, who helped to set up the VRU, met the Justice Committee to outline Scotland’s approach in this area, our successes, our failures and our future challenges.
The hon. Gentleman mentions future challenges. Does he think it is correct that someone in Scotland could be punched, kicked or even hit with a weapon and it would not be considered a violent crime? If we are going to truly assess this issue, we have to get the criteria correct for what is and what is not a violent crime.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am by no means a policing expert, and obviously such crimes are recorded differently across jurisdictions. The fact is, however, that violent crime in Scotland has reduced by 49%, as has been recognised by his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament: Liam Kerr said that we have to recognise that Scotland has turned the corner when it comes to violent crime.
Good policy and effective policing strategy should not be controversial, which is why I am glad that similar initiatives have begun to be rolled out, such as the London violence reduction unit announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
In addition, the Scottish Government continue to provide real-terms protection to the resource budget for policing and have committed to protecting that budget for every year of the current Session of the Scottish Parliament. That amounts to a significant increase in investment of £100 million by 2021. As of April last year, the SNP has ensured that the police will also fully benefit from being able to reclaim VAT of around £25 million a year, which for far too long was stolen and kept by the Treasury here in Westminster. [Interruption.] I hear chuntering from the Government Benches that we knew it from the start, but the Scottish Conservatives also knew it from the start, yet it was in their manifesto too.
In England and Wales there are now 21,000 fewer police officers than there were in 2010, which makes it the lowest number since comparable records began. Those figures mean a decrease of nearly 15% from the previous nine years. However, I do not want to be complacent, and I stress that there is still plenty of room for improvement, but Scotland is becoming a much safer country thanks to the public health approach.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the White Ribbon Campaign, I draw particular attention to the importance that domestic violence plays in a public health approach to violence. This is an area where we have much further to go, both north of the border and across the rest of the UK. Gender-based violence is a national shame in every part of the UK. In 2016-17 there were nearly 59,000 reported cases of domestic abuse in Scotland, and in nearly 80% of those cases women were the victims. Although the way the data is collected can differ between countries, it is demonstrably higher than in similar small European nations such as the Republic of Ireland.
Domestic abuse clearly has a serious effect on the mental health and development of future generations. Around 16% of adverse childhood experiences are caused by witnessing domestic violence in the household. The vast majority of this, of course, is perpetrated by men against women. That is the largest contributor to ACEs of any household environmental factors. Compared with someone with no ACEs, someone with four or more is more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes in adulthood. For example, they are 16 times more likely to perpetrate violence, and 20 times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime.
The Scottish Government are taking action to reduce domestic violence in households through an increase in health visitor numbers and the roll-out of family nurse partnerships, and through targeted investment in projects and services that support parents and families to cope better, keep children safe and prevent children from going into care. Although that falls outwith the Scottish Government’s policing strategy, it is steps like this that help people participate in society, tackle serious violence at its root cause and stop the cycle of violence perpetuating itself on and on.
In conclusion, the most compelling stories are the ones that are true. Over the past decade we have seen Scotland go from being called the murder capital of Europe to being the safest nation on these islands in which to live. I fear that in many crucial ways the serious violence strategy for England and Wales was a missed opportunity to tackle the problem in a completely objective and holistic manner, as we have done in Scotland. I implore Members across the House to see violence for what it is: a resilient societal disease. Although the symptoms must be appropriately punished, the root causes also deserve to be treated. We can no longer waste time and human energy trying to deal with the symptoms of generational violence.
While Scotland is enjoying lows in recorded crime that have not been seen for decades, violent crime in England and Wales is rising to deeply worrying levels. Thanks to the Scottish Government, and particularly the violence reduction unit, Scotland is becoming a safer country. I urge that a similar approach be tried and tested across the rest of the UK so that we may learn from each other. We need to understand better why violence happens, we need to be as objective as possible in tackling it, and we need to be mindful of the many forms that it comes in. We need an all-encompassing public health approach to violent crime.
I shall be mentioning policing in Scotland, so I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. My wife is a serving police officer, although she is actually in her final week of work before taking maternity leave as we prepare for the arrival of our first child in a few weeks’ time.
Much of my remarks, while focusing on some elements that are devolved in Scotland, will be based on my experience as a member of the Home Affairs Committee, because we are currently undertaking an inquiry into serious violence. I have to say that the evidence session we had last October with parents of children who had died as a result of serious violence was one of the most compelling I have sat through. I feel it appropriate to repeat some of the evidence that we heard in the Committee, because it really puts into perspective what we are discussing this evening.
Philippa Addai’s son Marcel was stabbed 14 times by a gang of seven in September 2015. Yvonne Lawson’s son Godwin was stabbed while trying to break up a fight involving some of his friends. Yvonne’s testimony about her reaction on being told what had happened to her son was compelling. She said:
“I remember being at home. There was a knock on the door. Typically, I just thought it was Godwin knocking on the door. There were three police officers who came to tell us that Godwin lost his life. I remember hearing that word that Godwin died. I was in denial… I just kept ringing Godwin’s number. I just could not believe that the police officers were saying that Godwin has taken his last breath on the street alone.”
Caroline Shearer, whose child Jay was also killed, recalled how she put on perfume when she was told by the police to go to the hospital. It was an irrational thing to do, but that is what she remembers. The next thing she remembers is being in the back of the police car and getting out at the hospital, where an officer bent down to tell her that her son had died before she could see him. The next thing she tried to do was steal that officer’s Taser and put it in her mouth. Finally, Darren Laville’s son Kenichi Phillips was shot dead in 2016. Kenichi had a whole life ahead of him and had just that day been given a new job as a personal trainer.
Those four testimonies have stayed with me since our evidence session in October, but there were positive legacies. Each and every family were determined that their child would not die in vain and have started charity work to ensure that more youths are saved from that end, which will hopefully complement the work that the Government and all parties are doing on serious violence.
I would like to focus on some of the elements that affect Scotland. I am fortunate that my Moray constituency does not have a particularly high crime rate, but, as the Home Secretary said, county lines affect us all. A crime that starts in London can progress right up to Aberdeen and potentially across to Moray, so it is important that Government investment here is matched at a UK level, and I know that work is ongoing in Scotland to deal with county lines.
I agree with the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) about the pioneering violence reduction unit. It is important that we treat violence as a disease that is preventable and not inevitable. However, the Scottish crime and justice survey shows that at least two thirds of crime in Scotland goes unreported. It goes on to say that the result of violence in Scotland is more likely to be seen in A&E departments than police stations, because more people go directly to hospital than report it to the police. While I welcome the figures that the hon. Gentleman quoted about violence reducing in Scotland, we have to realise that a large amount of violence is unreported.
A number of Members want to speak in the debate, so I will make my final plea to the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins). The Home Secretary was clear that he is looking at all options to reduce knife crime and the fatalities caused by it. My constituent Hugh Broadley, who came to my surgery in Buckie on Friday, believes he has designed a knife that can significantly reduce the number of fatalities from knife crime. Will someone from the Department meet me to look at his designs? It is important that we listen to all offers to deal with this issue, and if Hugh Broadley believes that his design could prevent just one death, that is important. I would welcome any opportunity to discuss that important matter with the Minister or the Home Secretary.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that.
This is a very serious issue. Over the almost 20 years that I have been in public life, very sadly, I have had to comfort far too many parents who have lost their children to violence. In fact, when I reflect on my career one day, and this is an apposite day on which to say this, as a member of the serious violence taskforce moves off in a different direction—I am of course thinking of the hon. Member for Streatham (Chuka Umunna)—it is right to say that two cases stand out in my mind. The first is the young woman, Pauline Peart, who, at the beginning of my political career back in 2003, was shot in a car in my constituency and lost her life. The other was on bank holiday last year, when a young woman, Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, was also shot and killed.
It is right to say that that event sparked the current national concern about violent crime in our country. At that point, there was a lot of comment about the murder rate in London overtaking that of New York. I do not think we are quite in that place, but it nevertheless caused tremendous alarm. I think it was because it was a young woman who found herself in those circumstances, just having walked out of her home with a friend to go a newsagent’s, and lost her life, that it caused such concern on that public holiday.
I guess the important thing in such a debate—this subject is probably the one I have spoken about more than other subject in this Chamber and in this House—is to ask: is the situation getting worse, is it stable or is it getting better? My judgment is that we have not got over the problem, and the situation feels significantly worse over the last period than it has done in the past. I have seen other spikes. I recall the spike back in 2008, and I remember that Ken Livingstone was the Mayor of London, but lost his post in part because crime became a very central issue in the campaign. There have been spikes over this period, but we are clearly in the grip of something at the moment.
I want to reflect briefly on some of the contexts of this spike and the national concern. The first is that, once upon a time—when I started, we talked about yardie gangs and Operation Trident had just been set up—I really thought this problem, which we had imported almost from downtown America, would go. It does not feel like that today; sadly, it feels almost a permanent feature of our urban life, and of course it has spread to areas that are very different from my own constituency. That is the first context that is very disturbing.
Why is that? We tend to focus on the violence and on the knives and the guns, but the real issue that drives much of this is not the knives or the guns. It is drugs, money and demand, as well as the increasing quality of cocaine across our country and the drop in price of that product. It is prolific, and I was first struck by how prolific it is when sitting in Highbury magistrates court behind a young man—I think he was 17—who had been arrested for trafficking that drug on county lines, and I was staggered that he had been arrested in Aberdeen. What was my young constituent doing in Aberdeen, when I have never been to Aberdeen? I wish that I had been to Aberdeen, but I have not been there. I thought, “Why was he there?” He was there because it turns out there is quite a rich market for cocaine in Aberdeen. There is a middle-class life, with some money and some spend, and like a lot of places here in London and a lot of parts of our country, cocaine is particularly rife.
I welcome the review by Dame Carol Black that has been announced. This does open broader questions about drugs in our country, about the war on drugs and its failure, about our position and the repositioning of public policy on drugs, and—I have to raise this with the Home Secretary—the successive cuts in our Border Force. If we want enforcement on drugs and not to relax our position—although I think that is highly unlikely for cocaine—we have to police our borders.
When I met people at the National Crime Agency recently, they explained that they cannot possibly prevent the vast majority of drugs from coming into this country, although they do their best. Our Border Force is seriously stretched to police the market that is coming across the Atlantic, up through Spain, or across from Holland.
Drugs are the first major issue, and then it collides. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), the Opposition spokesman, has raised this, and I hate it being such a partisan issue, but there are real issues at a local authority level. Local authorities set the strategies for youth. They set the strategies for youth violence. They do it alongside the police—we turn to the police so often—but much of this falls to local authorities. My sense—I got around a lot when I was doing the review for the Government on the disproportionality of the criminal justice system for black and ethnic minorities—is that it is patchy across the country. It is not just patchy in terms of strategy and approach, but in terms of resource to address some of the problems, so investment in new services is important. It certainly means that issues such as how the pupil referral units are working and how alternative provision is working are central to this discussion.
The subject has come up in the serious violence taskforce and I remain concerned about the amount of young people who are effectively excluded from school, who are not getting an effective education and who are falling into the hands of adults who are exploiting them. That takes us to another issue: how do we address not the young people but the grown men who are exploiting them and trafficking them across the country? Is the law robust enough to send the message to these modern-day pimps—because that is how we should describe them—who are exploiting these young people in this way? The frustration is that we can go back quite a number of years, back to Dickens, and there will always be adults there to exploit young people. We have to bear down very hard on them.
The other colliding force affecting all young people across our country is of course social media and technology and, in this context, some of the rabbit holes down which young people can go in relation to particular types of music and particular types of violence. My concern is that much of that remains heavily unregulated and voluntarily policed by the industry. We have to do more to protect young people. It affects all young people. We see it in terms of suicide, anorexia, bulimia and those sorts of mental health issues among young people. In this area, it has a bearing on some of the increase in violent crime as well. I look forward to continuing to work with the Home Secretary, but there are issues with funding. It does not all fall to the police. The local context is important, and I am very concerned about the rise in drugs in this country, the rising market and the need to fully grip what we, as a nation, are to do about it.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and to hear him explain the work he has done, as well as his experiences. I commend him for his knowledge of the subject and his contribution to trying to make things better.
This is a very timely debate, not because crime is increasing or decreasing in Erewash nor, I hasten to add, because we see serious violent crime in Erewash, but because there appears to be an increase in the use of cheap synthetic cannabis in our market towns as well as in our cities and because it appears so invasive. The issue has been highlighted to me by my constituents over recent weeks, as they have shared their concerns about visible drug dealing, mainly in synthetic drugs such as Mamba and Spice, and the resulting zombie state that is so distressing for my constituents to see, especially when young children see it as well.
It is completely unacceptable that the day-to-day lives of residents are being disrupted by people taking drugs. I have personally spoken to the local police inspector. As a result, the presence of uniformed police patrols has increased in the area where it is happening. I would like to take this opportunity to commend my police officers across Erewash for their work, not just on this issue but day in, day out tackling everything that comes up. They never know what will be around the next corner.
Sadly, many of those targeted by the dealers are those who are the most vulnerable. I am also concerned that the dealing and use of drugs can so readily lead to more serious crimes. That is why I welcome the serious violence strategy published by the Government last year, in particular the action to tackle county lines, which other hon. Members have spoken about, and the misuse of drugs. I look forward to the Minister, in responding to the debate, providing an update on the progress being made to tackle the county lines issue. Work on intervention and prevention is vital if we are to get a grip on the pervasive use and abuse of drugs. For too many young people, their involvement in county lines and the resulting involvement in violence has, as we have heard, resulted in lives being lost and young people being seriously injured in gang attacks.
On a recent visit to one of the hospitals that serves my constituency, the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, I was able to see at first hand the work of the charity Redthread, which is supported by the Home Office. It runs a youth violence intervention programme in the hospital’s emergency department, in partnership with the major trauma network. It is having a real impact, changing young people’s lives and moving them away from crime.
Redthread and other such charities provide the evidence that if we are to be successful in tackling all types of crime, we must understand that partnership working has the most success. It is not just about what the police do; it is also about collaboration with a wide range of statutory bodies and agencies. It is only by working together that low-level and more serious crime and violence will be tackled effectively.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. Serious violence is an issue that we in Northern Ireland know better than most, but tonight we are discussing a different kind of serious violence. I would first of all like to welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment and the important measures he suggested to tackle knife violence. Many right hon. and hon. Members have referred to county lines and the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) referred to drugs. Drugs seem to be the key issue for most of what is happening.
I want to make a quick comment on firearms. The statistics show that those who have the legal right to have a firearm, through licences and firearm certificates, are the most law-abiding people in the land. It is therefore important that the focus is put on those who have illegal firearms and on deactivating firearms. I am reminded of a slogan I saw in Canada many years ago, which said “When all the guns are outlawed, the only people who will have guns will be the outlaws.” The message is clear: those who want to have guns illegally will find a way to do so.
In the short time available, I want to refer to serious domestic violence. Like other types of violence, serious domestic violence is about the psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional, controlling and coercive behaviour that can lead to a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation to harm, punish or frighten the victim—all serious violence. The level of domestic violence has dropped slightly in the past few years. That is good news as it shows that some things are working. At the end of the day, however, there were still 1.2 million female and 713,000 male victims in 2016-17. Also, 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some sort of domestic abuse since the age of 16. That equates to some 4.3 million female and 2.4 million male victims, which again, indicates the immensity of domestic violence and why it is important that it is addressed.
The Government have brought in a number of methods to address the issue, including domestic violence protection orders whereby a perpetrator can be banned from returning to their home and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days. That is good stuff—the right sort of thing that we need—but again, it is important that victims are given the time and space to access support and consider their options. The domestic violence disclosure scheme—Clare’s law, which many will be aware of—has been rolled out across England and Wales since March 2014. The scheme means that an individual can ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past. I wish that we had some of that legislation in Northern Ireland—it is the sort of legislation that we would like. The police will consider disclosing the information under the “right to know”.
The Government rightly committed some £80 million to a strategy on ending violence against women and girls. They have committed another £20 million to that as well, so some £100 million has been committed in total. In the Queen’s Speech of 2017, the Government promised a courts Bill that would
“end direct cross examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged perpetrators in the family courts and allow more victims to participate in trials without having to meet their alleged assailant face-to-face”.
Will the Minister tell us what is happening in relation to that?
A couple of very helpful recommendations, again, came out of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry—a comprehensive review of funding of support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, and the suggestion that the proposed domestic abuse commissioner should instead be established as a violence against women and girls and domestic abuse commissioner. I believe that that recommendation reflects, importantly, the gendered nature of domestic abuse and its links to other forms of gender-based abuse.
I want to finish with something that it is important to put on record. Today, one of my constituents contacted me—I am not going to mention her name; I am just going to tell her story. She said:
“I have been the victim of domestic violence. In August 2017 my husband tried to strangle me and he set fire to our home. My 3 and 5 year old girls witnessed the abuse and my now 6 year old is still experiencing flashbacks, nightmares and dealing with panic attacks due to the trauma. Social services have said my ex husband is still not safe to have direct contact with my children however he is still seeking access through the courts. Next month I face being questioned by my ex husband in family court. This is a man who has a suspended jail term due to his abuse of me, a non molestation Order to stop him harassing me and the judge gave a 2 year restraining order due to the level of abuse I have suffered and then next month he will be allowed the opportunity to have direct contact with me! The domestic abuse bill”—
I know that that is not your responsibility, Minister—
“is a start in improving the situation for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children but in Northern Ireland”
we do not have it yet, as she and I would like. I know that it is not your responsibility to do that, Minister—[Interruption.] It is not your responsibility either, Mr Speaker—I am sorry, I do that all the time. I was trying to get away from using the word “you”. I apologise—when we are in the middle of all this EU stuff, it is very hard to distinguish the two.
I am sure that the Minister has been touched, as I was, by that heartfelt plea from a lady who has been through nightmarish scenarios to get safety for her children and is begging for us to make a change so that other people do not have to go through this. Again, for the record, we need the domestic abuse Bill and these proposals to be put forward here in the UK mainland and in Northern Ireland—I wish we had them.
Thank you for giving me time to speak in this very important debate on serious violence, Mr Speaker. As many Members have said before me, we are seeing a dramatic change in the type of violence that takes place in our country.
As a statistician, I go back to the statistics, and it is interesting to see that while the level of knife crime is increasing, just recently the level of gun crime seems to have come down. The level of homicides is also increasing, but I was comparing the statistics with those in other European countries and I noticed that our homicide rates are actually well below those of the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia—less than half of the rates in those countries—and well below countries like Germany and Italy.
However, when it comes to violence, lives are not statistics. Violence has a real impact on communities and families, and I have been very pleased to see the Government working to address these issues not only through the serious violence strategy, but by looking at how to address the changing nature of online crime. On the Science and Technology Committee, we recently took evidence on the impact of social media on young people’s lives. We heard chilling evidence of how serious gangs use online tools, such as YouTube, to seduce young people to get involved in their gangs, resulting in young, especially vulnerable, teenagers taking part in criminal activity. Last Saturday night, Essex police saw two people running from a vehicle when they spotted the police. The police gave chase and apprehended them. The car contained drugs and knives, and the number plates were false; the driver was 16.
When it comes to fighting crime, our police are on the frontline. Ten days ago, I attended the passing-out parade of 55 new police officers in Essex. They are in addition to the 150 extra officers who joined the force last year and are part of the 240 joining this year. They are vital to our police’s future and are proudly funded by the Essex taxpayer. It is beyond belief that the Labour party refused to vote for the funding that made those police officers available. I spoke to every one of the new recruits. Many were on the fast track to become detectives under a programme established to bring new skills into the modern force, many were women, and many had experience in the armed forces or other civil occupations.
In Essex, our police have been working hard to target knife and drug-related crime, and stop and search is a vital part of their toolkit. In the last three months of last year, Chelmsford police undertook about 500 stop and searches—compared with only 80 the year before—and it works. One third resulted in a positive outcome—finding that the person was carrying something they should not have been, such as a weapon or a drug. This visible, pro-active work on the streets has resulted in many arrests and a tougher approach to fighting crime. I am pleased that stop and search has been extended to people suspected of carrying corrosive substances or acid in public places. Many young people in my constituency have raised with me the fear of acid attack.
Fighting crime is not just about the police, however, but about partnerships. Our excellent police and crime commissioner in Essex, Roger Hirst, who has been mentioned before, asked me to mention the violence and vulnerability strategy, which we have had in place since last summer, and which brings together partners to work on prevention and intervention. It was the first framework of its nature in the country. I also thank the Home Office for the £664,000 it invested in the early intervention youth fund, which was matched by £500,000 from the county council. Such measures are positive incentives to getting partners aligned and have a positive impact.
In Essex, our children’s services have just been rated outstanding by Ofsted and No. 1 in the country. The joined-up work of the gangs intervention team was particularly praised—
I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, although I do not plan to go through all their contributions because time is so limited.
As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary pointed out, this seems like a very rushed debate. It has been rushed forward with no indication that any action will follow. Based on the contributions, the Government’s continued inability to tackle the rise in serious violent crime seems unlikely to alter. It is clear from today’s debate that right hon. and hon. Members are deeply concerned about the rise in serious crime, and the Government’s lack of decisive action is also concerning. Ministers have failed to tackle the underlying causes of crime. In fact, their policies have made them worse.
Ministers are relying on eye-catching initiatives designed to achieve good headlines, but these do not amount to a strategy, or even to effective initiatives. The latest are their knife crime prevention orders, for which there is no evidence, and these follow Ministers’ support for more random stop and searches, more Tasers, more spit hoods, and so on and so on, none of which measures is supported by evidence.
Ministers have still failed to answer some basic questions about the knife crime prevention orders. They have failed to explain on what evidence the Home Office has based its new policy; if there is evidence, it should be made available to the House. They have failed to explain what oversight of the orders there will be, and what review or appraisal will be made of their effectiveness or otherwise. It is hard to see how, without evidence, the Minister can reasonably expect the orders to have any appreciable effect in reducing knife crime. There has also been no indication of what safeguards have been introduced to prevent the issuing of incorrect or inappropriate orders, and of whether we shall see any report examining the subjects of the orders by region, locality, family income and, of course, ethnicity.
This is all of a piece with the Government’s previous announcements. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) has pointed out, the evidence does not support an increase in stop and search. In November last year, researchers from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies examined data including a study commissioned by the Home Office, and concluded there was
“limited evidence of the effectiveness of stop and search in reducing crime”.
That is absolutely in line with the Home Office's own research, and with separate analysis conducted by the College of Policing. There is a similar absence of evidence to support the use of spit hoods, which are almost designed to humiliate those who are stopped, and the same is true of Tasers.
However, the Home Secretary and the Government do not seem to operate on the basis of evidence at all. In fact, their assurances about their own policies do not bear scrutiny. At the beginning of October last year, the Home Secretary announced that the Government were taking a dramatic turn towards the adoption of a public health approach to tackling violent crime, including knife crime. If that statement was not made simply as an irrelevant soundbite, can the Minister tell us, even now, how the new policy on knife crime prevention orders accords with the previous announcement of a public health approach?
The truth is that since 2010 the austerity policy as a whole has had the effect of worsening the causes of crime, and that since that year, successive Tory-led Governments have axed the jobs of 21,000 police officers. This is the real record on serious violence: it is a toxic cocktail of failure. Moreover, nothing has changed. Austerity continues in all areas of social policy, and it continues in policing. The latest police settlement is a cut in real terms, once the funding for police pensions is taken into account, and that is why I voted against it.
There is an alternative. There is Labour's alternative, which means truly ending austerity in every aspect of social policy, and, specifically, ending austerity in funding for the police. We will recruit thousands of extra police when we are in government, because that is what we need to tackle crime in the short and the medium term. The Government continue to operate as though it were possible to have safety and security on the cheap, but their own record shows that it is not. A Labour Government are needed to end this failure.
I thank all Members who have spoken for their passionate and moving speeches, although I note—as I often need to—that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Karen Lee) has perhaps misjudged the tone of the debate.
Across our country, serious violence is robbing people of their futures, families of their loved ones, and children of their lives. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) spoke of the experiences of the families of Marcel, Godwin, Jay and Kenichi, and also spoke movingly of the work that their parents are now doing to try to stop knife crime. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) spoke compellingly, as he always does—particularly about Pauline and Tanesha, two women who were killed in his constituency some 20 years apart.
This issue transcends party politics. Serious violence is a matter of grave concern to all of us, and to those whom we represent. If we in this place can be united in our anger, we can also be united in our efforts to tackle violent crime. As the Home Secretary said at the start of the debate, tackling violent crime is an absolute priority for the Government, but just as there is no one cause of serious violence, there is no one solution. It can only be effectively tackled though the combined efforts of Government, law enforcement and civil society—and, crucially, through a coherent short, medium, and long-term approach.
Through our serious violence strategy and our serious organised crime strategy, we are tackling those who ensnare young people in criminality, while intervening earlier to prevent them from being drawn into these terrible webs of violence. With immediate effect, the Government have set up the national county lines co-ordination centre. We are taking the Offensive Weapons Bill through the House. We are also introducing knife crime prevention orders at the request of the police because they believe that this is one way to help prevent young people from being drawn into criminality. We have also handed out money through the anti-knife-crime community fund; I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup), who spoke about the contributions made by the voluntary sector in their constituencies. This has all been overseen by the cross-party serious violence taskforce, which includes the right hon. Member for Tottenham, for whose attention we are most grateful.
In the medium term, we are investing in our early intervention youth fund across the country to work with children and young people and steer them away from gangs and crime. We know of the link between drug markets and serious violence, so the news of a major independent review into drug misuse has been welcomed by hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Tottenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash, who spoke about the impact of synthetic cannabis in her constituency.
The Home Secretary has announced £1.4 million to enhance the ability of the police to tackle gang-related activity on social media. Colleagues across the House have spoken about the impact social media can have on gangs, including through bragging, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham mentioned, and the chilling evidence heard by the Science and Technology Committee, as set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford). The new social media hub will help the police and the tech companies bear down on those who would use social media to spread their criminality.
Our long-term strategy seeks explicitly to identify and tackle the root causes of violent behaviour. The only solution is prevention. That is why we are carrying out a consultation on a new legal duty to underpin a multi-agency public health approach to tackling serious violence. In practice, a duty would mean that police officers, education providers, local authorities and healthcare professionals would all have a legal responsibility to act to prevent violent crime.
A new £200 million youth endowment fund, delivered over 10 years, will support intervention with those children and young people most at risk and provide interventions to deliver long-lasting change. It is only by reaching out to the most vulnerable that we can combat violence now and in the future.
Members mentioned the role of exclusions in the vulnerability of children to being drawn into violent crime, or indeed being victims of it. The Home Office is working with the Department for Education on this issue, and alongside the exclusions review the Department for Education is providing £4 million through the alternative provision innovation fund to improve outcomes for children in non-mainstream education.
I am also grateful to colleagues who raised the role of adverse childhood experiences, as the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) mentioned, and in particular the role that domestic abuse plays, sadly, in the lives of children drawn into violence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witham and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) both raised the issue of domestic abuse. From the work I have done in visiting youth workers and speaking to former members of gangs, it has been clear that domestic abuse is a theme that runs constantly through these young people’s lives. That is why the Domestic Abuse Bill will, as well as tackling domestic abuse, have huge positive impacts on the life chances of children who live in abusive households. I know there are colleagues across the House, including in the Opposition, who will be helping the Government bring that very important piece of legislation through. I hope the hon. Member for Strangford will forgive me if I promise to write to him rather than addressing the particular points he raised about domestic abuse in this debate, because we are, sadly, running short of time.
We are working to tackle the threat of county lines, to impede the supply of weapons and to identify those young people most at risk of violence, but I join all colleagues across the House who tonight have thanked their police officers working in their constituencies on the frontline, including the 55 new officers in Essex.
I was delighted to see the video on the social media pages of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. I also want to thank the police and crime commissioners and those in the voluntary sector who do so much work with these young people. We heard tonight about the great work of Redthread, and there are many more charities that help us in this sphere. No one should have to face the pain and devastation that violent crime can cause a person, a family and a community, and by working together we will stop this—
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).