Opposition Day — [12th Allotted Day]
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
The hon. Lady is absolutely right about the problems that young people encounter when they are on their own and feel isolated. They feel that they have to carry knives because that is the only way in which they can protect themselves.
Let us think about those four agencies. Parents must ask their children where they are going and what they are doing. I think it was David T.C. Davies, a member of the Select Committee, who raised the issue of parental responsibility. Parents do have that responsibility. My children are aged 14 and 12. I ask them—not as often as I should—where they are and what they are doing, and I ask them to keep in touch with me if they are going out with friends. That is something that all parents need to do.
As our report states, the Committee found that the majority of knives carried by young people—34 per cent.—were kitchen knives from the family home. We do not expect parents to go around counting the kitchen knives every time their kids go out, but an awareness that the knives may well come from the home should be enough to get them thinking. The report also contains a paragraph on the importance of parents' awareness of what video games their children are watching. I know that I have raised this issue in the House on a number of occasions. We feared that violent DVDs and video games contributed to the problem to some extent, because those who were predisposed to violence would be affected by very violent video games.
As for the police and other agencies, we believed that the initiatives on which the Government had embarked were important. As we have heard from both the present and the previous Home Secretary, a huge amount of money is involved. We did not feel that the "tackling knife crime" initiative had been around for long enough for us to say definitively whether it had been a success, and I welcome what the Home Secretary has said about the need for a review after a year. I am glad that he is getting all the stakeholders together. We would like to be very much a part of that—or we would like the Home Secretary to be very much a part of what the Select Committee is proposing to do. However, we consider it important for the various initiatives not to be duplicated. We feel that they should follow each other carefully and not be taken in isolation, because otherwise the problem will arise of spending money without knowing precisely what it is being spent on.
Let me now say something about schools. I am glad that we have been joined by Bob Russell. I believe it was his idea that one of his constituents, Mrs. Ann Oakes-Odger, should give evidence to the Select Committee. She produced some very interesting evidence about work that she had done with Essex police. A short film was made by another organisation, the UNCUT project in Leeds. These are examples of local good practice that should be followed in other parts of the country. We felt that there needed to be early intervention. This has to be done at primary school level; it is too late by the time children go to secondary school. That is why we felt that all year 7 schoolchildren should be asked to participate in an assembly or lesson dealing with the issue of knife crime.
We received some very impressive evidence of what the police are doing, especially in Scotland. We have to give young people alternatives to violence, and some of the schemes we heard about led to a reduction in knife crime. We were particularly taken by a scheme in Glasgow. As well as being the agency that tries to discover whether young people are carrying knives, the police are the best agency to prevent knife crime. We shall want to return to this issue, because the prevention of knife crime is the most important aspect of any discussion of the wider subject.