The Government are very concerned about the increase in knife crime and the devastating impact that it has on victims, their families and communities. That is why we published a serious violence strategy in April, setting out action to tackle knife crime, including new legislation in the Offensive Weapons Bill, the launch of the £1 million community fund and continuing police action under Operation Sceptre.
I welcome the Offensive Weapons Bill, which will put tough legislation in place and make it harder than ever before for people to get dangerous weapons. Will my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that banning the delivery of bladed articles to residential addresses will not prevent the legal pursuits of tradesmen and hobbyists?
I thank my hon. Friend for that. I am happy to confirm that the Bill provides defences for a number of items that otherwise would be prohibited, especially those that otherwise would have been delivered to a residential address. This includes bespoke knives and bladed products and those that might be used in re-enactment activities. I can assure him that he will still be allowed to toss the caber in the Highland games.
I am sure that that is greatly reassuring for the hon. Gentleman.
This Wednesday, the Youth Violence Commission will publish its interim policy report. Last year, knife crime increased by 22% and, in London, we have had another tragic spate of stabbings over the weekend. We must urgently seek long-term solutions. Will the Secretary of State commit to engaging with the recommendations of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission?
First, the hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue. I can assure her that we are doing everything we can working not just across parties, but with a number of groups that have a lot to contribute. We have already made a commitment to work with the all-party parliamentary group. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), is doing just that, and we are very happy to listen to its suggestions.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that, often in restraining suspects with knives, service animals such as police dogs are injured. It is very welcome that the Government are supporting my private Member’s Bill, the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill, but does he agree that the recent consultation by the Secretary of State for the Environment is also an important step forward in trying to increase the sentence so that this sort of knife crime is really put down?
I very much agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. I would like to see an increase in sentencing for those who engage in terrible cruelty to animals. May I also take this opportunity to thank him for his Bill and say that we are very happy to support it?
I am sure that the Home Secretary does not want to trivialise this issue, but the fact of the matter is that the real concern—the deep roots of this issue—is very often the emergence of gangs in all of our towns and cities and in our schools. What will we do to combat not just knife crime, but the gangs that seem to promote it?
Again, this is an important issue in this debate. There is a lot more that we can do both in Government and in working with other organisations, including community organisations, especially in terms of early intervention and prevention. The funding that was allocated, such as the £11 million on early intervention and youth grants, will make a difference as will the new national centre to co-ordinate action based on county lines.
I wonder whether the Home Secretary has decided to accept the suggested amendments that I made on Second Reading of the Offensive Weapons Bill, not least the one where, currently, the offence of threatening somebody with a knife applies only to public places. Does he agree that the offence of threatening with a knife should apply to everywhere it is done, including in private places as well?
I remember that debate very well. I thought that my hon. Friend made a thoughtful and valuable contribution. I listened carefully to the suggestion he made then, which is why I am considering it.
The law governing what type of knife people can buy across the counter in Scotland is different from the law in England, yet a knife can kill regardless of whether it is English or Scottish. What discussions has the Home Secretary had with the Scottish Government with a view to bringing these laws more into line?
We have been having extensive discussions with the Government in Scotland, and they have indicated that they will be supporting the measures in the Bill through a legislative consent motion.
Knife crime is often associated with county lines. I asked the Security Minister at a recent Home Office questions how the national county lines co-ordination centre was to be funded and was told that it would be through the police transformation fund. I then received a letter saying that
“it does not come from the Police Transformation Fund…and I apologise if this is the impression given.”
But the same letter says that
“projects and programmes funded through the PTF will support the strategy’s aims.”
So how are the Government funding their anti-county lines programme? Is it all from new resources or not?
First, I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of dealing with the whole issue of county lines and welcomes the new co-ordination centre. It will be funded through the commitment of £40 million into the serious violence strategy, and the centre’s funding specifically will be £3.6 million over the next two years.