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Violent Crime: Young People

Volume 663: debated on Monday 15 July 2019

Diverting young people away from crime is at the heart of our 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, for example, we are investing £220 million in early intervention schemes—a record amount.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. We all know that instances of violent crime in urban centres such as London get the most media attention, but sadly we are also seeing our share of violent crime in my coastal constituency. We had one robbery at knifepoint and one serious assault in the same area of the town in the past week. Following a campaign that I led in Essex, we have seen 12 more officers on the streets of Clacton. They work so hard, but what more can be done to prevent young people in areas such as my constituency from turning towards violent crime?

My hon. Friend has led an excellent local campaign and I commend him for it. As he will know, Essex police has received £1.7 million from the £100 million extra funding to tackle serious violence that was recently announced. In addition, his local police and crime commissioner has been provisionally allocated a further £1.16 million for a violence reduction unit. He may also welcome the £660,000 allocated to Essex from the early intervention youth fund.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating N-Act, in my constituency, which has toured the schools producing plays that have a profound effect on young people, meaning that they do not get involved in gangs, and Gorgui Thiam, a Senegalese sports coach whose work has been very effective in breaking up violent gangs through the power of sport?

I happily join my hon. Friend in commending that work. The work being done there locally and similar work across the country shows the power of early intervention. That is why we have set up funding to support more and more schemes like that, both through the early intervention youth fund and the youth endowment fund.

Of course we all join in the celebration of the power of sport as a positive force, be it, for example, tennis, cricket or indeed football. [Interruption.] And lots of other sports to boot—netball, hockey, rounders and athletics. We also celebrate those who teach sport, and those who broadcast it and write about it, one of whom I spy not very far from me at this every moment—the great Richard Evans. [Interruption.] That will do for now.

21. Reducing school exclusions is key to tackling this problem. Will the Home Secretary join the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary to co-fund high-quality intervention for young men who are falling out of school and being excluded from school between the ages of 13 to 15, which appear to be the key ages when they are at risk of going from pupil referral units to prison? (911937)

The hon. Lady raises an important point and it shows precisely why we are planning to introduce the public health duty—to get more Departments and public agencies to work together in providing early intervention through many different types of programme. She is right to highlight alternative provision and some of the issues associated with it, especially how some of those children, sadly, become the target of gangs, and we are doing more work across government.

22. What is the Home Secretary doing with other Departments in the spending review to fund youth centres properly? That would go some way to tackling youth crime. (911938)

When it comes to early intervention, youth activities, youth clubs and the kind of thing we have just heard about in Southend are the sort of important work that we want to support more. I have talked about the £220 million of early intervention funding, which is a record amount, and it will go towards doing that, supporting some 200 different projects.

You are far too kind, Mr Speaker.

What difference does the Home Secretary believe putting 20,000 more police officers out on the beat, catching criminals and deterring crime, will make in practical terms?

I have long said that we need to tackle crime, especially serious violence, on many fronts, and that means making sure that the police are properly resourced so that we have enough police on the streets. That is why this year we had a record settlement of almost £1 billion, which was voted for and supported by Government Members but rejected by Opposition Members.

Often, the focus is on violent crime in cities, but towns such as ours in West Yorkshire have seen an increase in robberies and antisocial behaviour, and the results of county lines and drug violence, too. Our area has lost nearly half its neighbourhood policing, which the Home Secretary will know has been cut throughout the country. The Home Affairs Committee has called for more police on the beat—we need more police back on the beat—and the Home Secretary has recognised that we need 20,000 more police back on the beat. When does he estimate we will get them?

I very much agree with the right hon. Lady about the need for more police. That is why we had a record settlement this year, which included, for example, more than £28 million extra for her local police force, which is leading to more police officers and more police staff. I have said that we need to go further, and we are discussing that internally in Government to see what more can be done. I hope the right hon. Lady recognises, though, that it is about more than just police; it is about early intervention and understanding some of the underlying causes of crime. I have always recognised the need for more resources and more police.

The Home Secretary referred to the new public health duty. The Opposition agree that it is a good idea in principle, but does the Home Secretary agree with the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, who has said that the change is not enough on its own and who is calling for the next Prime Minister, and perhaps his Chancellor, to ensure that preventive services such as youth services have the right resources? Will the Home Secretary tell us how often the Prime Minister’s knife crime taskforce has actually met?

The right hon. Lady has mentioned an important partner in tackling serious violence, and the Children’s Commissioner is part of the serious violence taskforce and we listen to her important views regularly. Of course, the Children’s Commissioner is right that this issue requires action on many fronts. There is no one single answer—we have talked about resources, new powers, early intervention and, of course, the public health approach—which is why we are working across Government. We have institutionalised that in Government in many ways, including with the taskforce that the Prime Minister set up, which has already met once and is meeting again today.