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Violent Crime

Volume 689: debated on Monday 8 February 2021

According to the crime survey for England and Wales, overall levels of violent crime have reduced since the peak in the mid-1990s. However, this trend has begun to stabilise and there is growing public concern. We are taking action by surging police capacity in the forces most affected by violent crime, and investing in early intervention to prevent young people from being drawn into serious violence.

Last month, I found out through an answer to a written parliamentary question tabled in September that the serious violence taskforce has been discontinued. Are the Government still committed to a long-term public health-based approach to tackling violence affecting young people? I fear for other measures they may be looking to scrap via the back door.

I am slightly mystified by the hon. Lady’s attempt at surprise, not least because I think there was an exchange at this Dispatch Box some months ago when we discussed the serious violence taskforce, and, indeed, there have been previous questions. The Prime Minister—given that he had been a renowned crime-fighting Mayor—decided on coming to office that he wanted to take leadership of the crime effort himself, so we created the criminal justice taskforce. Beneath that sits the National Policing Board, and a performance board sits beneath that. That is all focused largely on fighting violent crime.

Our commitment to fighting violent crime remains strong. Just this morning, I was able to announce an extra £35 million of funding into violence reduction units, a very large proportion of which will obviously come to London. Both the Prime Minister and I have experience of fighting crime, and along with the Home Secretary—who was previously chair of the all-party parliamentary group on victims and witnesses of crime—have shown enormous commitment to this issue over a prolonged period, and that will continue into the future.

Crime has not stopped because of covid-19. After a brief respite during the first lockdown, the Department’s own figures show that overall violent crime is rising, and that drug and firearms-related offences are back at previous levels. The Government received the findings of Sir Craig Mackey’s review into serious and organised crime last February and told the House in June that the recommendations were being considered, but, as of today, they still have not come forward with them. So can I ask what we are waiting for and what it is that Ministers have been doing for the last year?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been dealing over the past year with a pandemic—it might have passed him by, but it has not the rest of us. That pandemic has had a significant impact on UK policing, its disposition, what it has been involved in and, critically, the types of crime and the trends in crime that it has been dealing with.

The hon. Gentleman is correct that post the second lockdown we saw a surge in violence for one particular month. That number has stabilised since, and we are trying to understand, by research and analysis, what the implications of the pandemic have been for crime and therefore what they are for the police. Alongside that, we have been in conversations with our partners at the National Crime Agency, with chief constables involved in serious and organised crime and with territorial forces about what the disposition of serious and organised crime should look like into the future, and we will be making announcements about how it will be disposed in the near future.