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Backbench Business — Gangs and Serious Youth Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:33 pm, 3rd March 2016

Goodness me! I do not think that the shadow Minister has ever been quite so nice to me across the Dispatch Box, although I am sure that that will not be repeated. I am speechless, but the hon. Lady will be glad to know that I will not be speechless for long.

I congratulate Mr Umunna on securing this important debate. It could not take place on a previous occasion owing to time restrictions—a number of urgent questions were granted, which ate into the time—and the fact that the hon. Gentleman has initiated it again today demonstrates his perseverance and his determination to draw attention to this issue. His long-standing interest in tackling gangs and youth violence is well known, and I congratulate him.

I also congratulate the other Members who took part in the debate: we have heard some powerful contributions, which featured the in-depth local knowledge that is key to tackling the issue.

Let me begin by assuring the House that tackling gangs and serious youth violence is a priority for the Government. I have met and spent time with victims of such violence, and I am aware of the devastating impact that it can have on families, communities, and young people whose lives were ahead of them, but may not be so any longer. We must all remember that that is the case.

We have heard many references to the Government’s approach. If the House will allow me, I shall spend a few minutes talking about what we have done, and what the future holds.

The Government published their refreshed approach to tackling gangs in a paper—it was only a paper; I shall return to that point shortly—entitled “Ending gang violence and exploitation”. It explains that the Government’s approach is focused on both reducing violence, including knife crime, and preventing the exploitation of vulnerable individuals by gangs. It builds on the ending gang and youth violence programme that we established in 2012, at a time when many people were only just starting to understand the problems caused by gangs in their areas. The EGYV programme dealt with the need to understand those problems, and to build local resilience. It was due to end in March last year, but because we were beginning to see gangs operating in new ways, and, in particular, the exploitation of vulnerable young people, we extended it for a further 12 months so that we could identify where gangs were operating, and could help local areas to build that resilience.