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Police: Serious and Violent Crime

Volume 793: debated on Thursday 15 November 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to strengthen the ability of police forces in England and Wales to tackle knife and other serious and violent crime in addition to funding provided by the Early Intervention Youth Fund.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, perhaps topically, declare my interest as the police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

My Lords, the serious violence strategy sets out our response to tackling serious violence and it includes an ambitious programme of 61 commitments to take action on this issue. We have already delivered on our commitment to establish a new national county lines co-ordination centre and to improve police capabilities to tackle this issue, and we have provided £1.4 million to support a new national police capability to tackle gang-related activity on social media.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. The early intervention youth fund is obviously a good idea and I welcome the support that the Government have given to Metropolitan Police forces—by goodness, they need the funding. I know that the Minister has been a supporter of Leicester’s projects to fight serious and violent crime in the past, but how can the Home Office justify giving no funding at all to Leicester, a city which has seen an increase of 12.5% since 2015—more than double the average around the country—alongside massive child poverty, child crime and youth crime? Further, how can the Home Office justify giving nothing to Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Leicestershire, by far the three largest police force areas in the East Midlands, each of which has a city conurbation and whose population amounts to over 3 million people? Why has the East Midlands been treated so much worse than any other part of England and Wales?

I first pay tribute to the noble Lord as Parliament’s only PCC. He is absolutely right that I support the work that Leicester does. I have been to see the work that he has done as PCC, particularly some of the multiagency work across services to improve the lives of people in Leicestershire. There were 111 bids for the early intervention youth fund, so it was a very competitive process indeed. As he has let me know that Leicester was unsuccessful, I would like to sit down and talk to him, perhaps about the youth endowment fund that the Home Secretary has announced and what might be done there. This is a metropolitan problem, as well as everywhere else.

My Lords, as well as better and more effective policing, we need a long-term, consistent grass-roots focus on this problem, working with not just the statutory authorities but the voluntary sector. For example, the pan-London churches serious violence summit was hosted by Southwark Cathedral earlier this week. Will the Minister support and resource such initiatives where the grass roots are trying to address the roots of these problems?

I totally agree that some grass-roots interventions are the most critical and beneficial to local areas. Not only do we appreciate the work that people such as the right reverend Prelate do, but we are keen to carry on supporting it. He is absolutely right that to achieve any long-term change in local areas we have to work with local people, local groups and local charities.

This is the second Question on policing today and it is the Home Office that has a responsibility for assessing how much funding police forces need. In the light of the 11% to 25% range—in real percentage terms—in funding reductions experienced by police forces between 2010-11 and 2018-19, rising violent crime, fewer arrests, high numbers of crimes not being investigated, less neighbourhood policing, fewer police officers and declining public satisfaction, is it still the Government’s assessment that police forces have sufficient funding in the current financial year to meet the legitimate demand for police services? Is the answer yes or no?

The Government’s assessment at this point in time—I refer again to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my honourable friend the Policing Minister—is that the police have had huge increases in demand. The pattern of crime is changing, as the noble Lord pointed out. Knife crime is a particular issue in London and county lines are spreading the problem across forces. I know that the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister recognise this and are looking to work on the funding picture.

My Lords, public health approaches such as those mentioned earlier can take a decade to produce significant results and meanwhile, young people are dying. Effective, targeted stop and search based on community intelligence requires a significant investment in community policing to build trust and confidence in the police and restore the flow of information about who the knife carriers are, so that the knives can be taken off the streets. When will the Government make such an investment? This is a clear example of where more resources could save lives.

I acknowledge that a public health approach is not a quick fix, but in Scotland, where there has been a public health approach for some time, it has been incredibly effective. I know that officials have been talking with the Scottish violence reduction unit and sharing its experience and insight into just how effective a public health approach can be.

My Lords, it is clear that there are several noble Lords competing for a place. It is difficult to make a judgment, but I think we should hear from the Green Party.

My Lords, in conversation with two ex-Met officers recently, they told me that good policing can reduce drug-related crime, which is obviously serious for young people, but it can never affect the scale of the problem simply because drug criminals keep being replaced. So is it time for the Government to regulate illegal drugs and take the business out of the hands of criminals?

My Lords, the Government have no plans to legalise drugs. The noble Baroness is right that good policing can reduce drug crime and all the effects that we are seeing from drug-related crime now. She is right, but we are not intending to legalise drugs.