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Violent Crime: Young People

Volume 661: debated on Monday 10 June 2019

Diverting young people from crime is at the heart of my approach to tackling serious violence. Factors such as domestic abuse, truancy and substance abuse can make a young person more vulnerable to becoming a victim or perpetrator of serious violence. That is why we are investing over £220 million in early intervention schemes to steer young people away from serious violence.

The experience of the local police in Chelmsford is that once a young person is in a gang they become indoctrinated and indebted to the gang, and it is hard to turn that round. It is therefore better to invest in prevention, and the role of schools is vital. Will my right hon. Friend work with the Secretary of State for Education and the Treasury to ensure that schools get the resources they need to run proactive initiatives to prevent young people from being sucked into violent gangs?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; we cannot arrest our way out of crime, and early intervention is critical. That is why we have, for example, the £200 million youth intervention fund to do precisely that: steer young people away from violence. She is also right to think about how schools can work much more closely with police and others. That require some more resources, and I am very happy to continue that conversation with the Department for Education and the Treasury.

Drug dealing and violence across county lines involving young people is a growing issue in my region. What support is my right hon. Friend giving Hampshire police to tackle this issue and help our young people?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of county lines and his concern. More support is being provided for Hampshire in particular, with Hampshire police receiving £1.2 million from the £100 million extra that I announced a few months ago for the serious violence fund. Hampshire is also benefiting from the early intervention youth fund, through which we have sponsored a number of projects, including a £400,000 project in Hampshire aimed at supporting young people away from future offending.

The Home Secretary referred to youth intervention investment, but that money is spread over several years. As he will know, the Select Committee on Home Affairs asked for the annual breakdown of that money. We are still waiting for that. That matters, because it looks to us as though the additional investment he has proposed adds up to around only 5% annually of the £760 million being cut from youth services.

I know from a meeting in Knottingley in my constituency this morning that antisocial behaviour is rising, and knife crime among young people in west Yorkshire has trebled over the last few years. We need this investment very rapidly and cannot wait. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Select Committee will get those figures, and that he will give oral evidence to the Committee before the summer recess? His office suggested that he would not.

I do plan to give evidence to the Select Committee before the summer recess. I can confirm also that the right hon. Lady will get the numbers that she has asked for. Perhaps she was referring to the £200 million youth endowment fund, but she will know that there is also the £22 million early intervention fund, which has supported some 29 projects already.

I welcome the Government’s decision to adopt a public health approach to youth violence, but aside from a summit we are yet to see any affirmative action. The Home Secretary recognises that early intervention is important, yet we have seen cuts to our Sure Start centres, our education and our youth services. What urgent action will he take to implement a public health approach? What will he do to step up conversations with Cabinet colleagues to ensure that those vital early intervention services get their funding restored to them immediately?

The hon. Lady rightly raises the importance of the public health approach—having a legal requirement for all Government Departments and agencies to work together—but she is wrong to suggest that the only thing that has happened is the summit that the Prime Minister held. The hon. Lady will know that we have already published the consultation, which is ongoing. She will know that, to get good policy, it is right to hold a consultation. I hope that she will input into it and that, when it leads to legislation, we can have cross-party support.

The normally quiet and law-abiding town of Calne in my constituency has been rocked in the past two weeks by the brutal murder of 18-year-old Ellie Gould by, allegedly, an under-age knife-bearing murderer. I will not ask the Home Secretary to comment on that case, but does he not agree that one very good way of deterring people from carrying knives and taking part in this kind of appalling outrage is by applying the strongest possible sentence to these people to send a message to others who might be that way inclined?

May I take this opportunity to extend my sympathy to Ellie’s family for what has happened and their terrible loss? My hon. Friend is absolutely right that to tackle serious violence we need to take action on many fronts. As well as law enforcement and early intervention, it is right to ensure that sentencing is fit for the crimes that have taken place.

Part of the Government’s response to the horrifying rise in violent crime has been to commission an independent review on drugs. Given the revelations over the weekend in relation to various Tory leadership hopefuls, is it not time to consider extending that review to consider whether our drug laws and policy are discriminatory, and whether they, in fact, fuel violent crime?

The hon. Lady will know that the Government have been very clear, as have previous Governments, that drugs and the crime related to drug gangs are leading to serious violence and all sorts of other serious problems in society and other types of crime. That is why we have taken action on many fronts, but we do want to understand more about drugs and their impact. That is exactly why I commissioned the independent review, by Dame Carol Black, on drugs misuse.