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Violent Crime: Young People

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

Diverting young people from crime is at the heart of my approach to tackling serious violence. Factors such as domestic abuse and substance abuse can make an individual vulnerable to becoming a victim or a perpetrator. I understand these communities; I was raised alongside kids like these and I will not leave them behind. That is why we are investing record amounts in early intervention schemes to steer even more children and young people away from serious violence.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he also investigate changing the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to allow a recent conviction for carrying a knife or gun to be used as grounds by the police for carrying out a stop and search? Does he agree that this could divert larger numbers of people from crime?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting this issue, which has also been raised by the police. I have asked officials for further advice on the matter. He might also be interested to know that just yesterday we announced changes to stop and search that would make it easier for police to deploy “no suspicion” stop and search powers to combat serious violence.

How does my right hon. Friend expect the £100 million of funding, allocated in the spring statement for the purpose of keeping young people safe, to ease police pressures not only in large cities such as London but in towns and villages such as those in my constituency?

It will certainly help to ease pressures. The £100 million will help police with their immediate response to the rise in serious knife crime, and it will also help to support the violence reduction units. That £100 million is alongside the almost £1 billion increase in total police funding this year.

Could more money be made available to excellent groups such as Youth of Walsall and its campaign Real Knives, Real Lives? The campaign seeks to educate those at risk of committing knife crime to understand the impact of their actions.

My hon. Friend is right to raise this, because the work of Real Knives, Real Lives and of other groups doing similar work is really helping young people to move away from involvement in what could become a life of crime. We have provided significant funding to similar organisations through the early intervention youth fund, and now the new youth endowment fund will also support similar community organisations.

I welcome the public health approach and the knife crime summit, but the evidence presented to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into serious violence suggests that the Home Secretary’s claim to be putting record amounts of funding into prevention is simply not credible. We were told by West Midlands police that they now have no police officers based in schools working on crime prevention because of the scale of the cuts. There has also been a one third reduction in youth service funding over the past few years and, crucially, there are now 50,000 fewer people working on community safety and crime prevention. Children’s lives are being lost and it is crucial that investment in prevention should take place.

First, the right hon. Lady will be aware that we have had the biggest cash increase in police resources—almost £1 billion—since 2010. That is going to lead to the recruitment of more than 3,000 officers. I absolutely agree with her that early intervention should be a priority, and just last week we confirmed that a record £200 million is going into the youth endowment fund. That will help many community organisations to help young people to turn away from crime.

15. A 15-minute response time to the recent fatality of a teenage boy in my constituency meant that an eight-year-old, a four-year-old and a tiny baby all witnessed a tragic event while barricaded behind a hairdresser’s door, therefore becoming victims of crime themselves. Is there a link between austerity and dreadful police response times? (910139)

First, I am very sorry to hear about that incident, which must have been shocking for everyone involved. We need to ensure that the police are properly resourced, which is why this record increase in funding since 2010 is hugely welcome. However, when it comes to other types of crime that require more focus, the additional £100 million to tackle serious violence that the Chancellor announced in the spring statement will also help.

For months, I have been raising the need for the Home Secretary to get a move on and get a grip on this national emergency. We welcome the measures that he has announced to tackle youth and violent crime, but will he commit today to come to this House of Commons every single week to let us know how everything is working, how it is reducing serious violence and whether it is having any impact at all? We will then start to believe him.

We absolutely should regularly update the House, whether by coming to the House, through “Dear colleague,” letters or by holding meetings with hon. Members who request them. However, it is important, on many of these measures, that we are united as a House. The public health approach, which seems to have united hon. Members, is an example of what we can do if we work together.

Right across the country, vulnerable children are being coerced and threatened into joining gangs that run drug operations. There are instances where vulnerable and isolated children are groomed, exploited and filmed while being sexually abused and subsequently blackmailed into selling drugs. What assurances can the Home Secretary offer the House about the specific action being taken to tackle the county lines operations properly to ensure that children are not caught up in violent gangs?

First, the new public health approach, the consultation on which was launched today, will certainly help to safeguard many more young people. Secondly, the work of the National County Lines Coordination Centre, which began in September, has already seen startling results. For example, just one week of intensification led to 600 arrests and 1,000 young people being safeguarded.