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Youth Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1998.

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Photo of Andrew Love Andrew Love Labour/Co-operative, Edmonton 12:00 am, 30th March 1998

What plans he has to tackle crime among young people. [35154]

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government's plans for reducing youth crime were set out in the White Paper "No More Excuses" which was published last November. Proposals to speed up youth justice proceedings, to replace repeat cautions with a new final warning scheme, to introduce new community-based sentences and to establish a national youth justice board and local youth offending teams are included in the Crime and Disorder Bill.

Photo of Andrew Love Andrew Love Labour/Co-operative, Edmonton

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. As he will be aware from his recent visit to Edmonton, many people in the Bush Hill Park area of my constituency have been subjected to the criminal activities of a few persistent young offenders. Does he agree that the time is now right to take action against those people?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. On my visit to the Bush Hill Park area of my hon. Friend's constituency a few weeks ago, I saw, yet again, the trouble caused by young offenders who are allowed to offend again and again, and who have received the message that they can go on doing so and get away with it. It is for that reason that we are proposing in the Crime and Disorder Bill a root and branch reform of the youth justice system, so that never again will a generation of youngsters believe that it can offend and behave criminally with impunity.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Shadow Secretary of State

May I direct the Home Secretary's attention to one particular aspect of youth crime, which is that committed by a small minority of people while they are allegedly supporting football teams and attending football matches? I am sure that all hon. Members extend their sympathy to the family and friends of the fan who was so brutally murdered on Saturday.

In that context, at least one Minister has known since last year of the new knife sponsored by FIFA during the World cup. Were the use and selling of the knives considered at the seminar on policing the World cup which the Home Secretary held in Blackburn earlier this year? What steps does he plan to take to reinforce the message that, no doubt, all hon. Members would support—that taking knives to football matches in Britain or at the World cup is totally unacceptable?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As the right hon. Gentleman said, I am sure that the whole House joins me in expressing the deepest sympathy with the family and friends of Matthew Fox, who was brutally murdered on Saturday as he came out of Priestfield Park football ground at Gillingham, and profound anger at the reappearance of football hooliganism. I assure the House that, in co-operation with the police and the football authorities, we shall do all that we can to ensure that such hooliganism is clamped down on heavily.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the FIFA-branded knife which, wholly inappropriately, is being sold in France as part of the so-called World cup memorabilia. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport raised the matter with me as soon as he became aware of it—I think that it was earlier this year rather than last year.

I have taken it up with the football authorities in France and with FIFA. It is a matter of enormous regret to me that they have not acted on those representations, as it sends out entirely the wrong message to sell knives as part of the memorabilia for football games.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham

May I, too, refer to the tragic events on Saturday at Priestfield stadium in my constituency of Gillingham? They have stunned the people of Gillingham and the Medway towns. Of course we add our condolences to the relatives and friends of Matthew Fox who was so tragically killed. May I inform my right hon. Friend that I, too, was at that match? Both sides played excellent football; the match was conducted in good humour and good spirit, and was extremely well policed and organised. Gillingham prides itself on being a family club and that was the atmosphere that afternoon. May I ask for further assurances that, wherever possible, steps will be taken to eradicate the violence that we witnessed at Priestfield Park on Saturday and that all the relevant authorities will leave no stone unturned, and will find out what happened and the lessons to be learnt?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have said, we share the grief of my hon. Friend's constituents and the family and friends of Matthew Fox, the young man who was murdered. We all understand the sense of shock that affects the entire community in the wake of an unnecessary tragedy. My hon. Friend asked me what inquiries were being made. The police are assiduously pursuing their inquiries and the Football Association is also establishing an inquiry into matters of crowd control, and that is quite right.