I will try to be brief to ensure that everybody has a chance to speak. I served on the Bill Committee and am grateful for another opportunity to speak on the Bill’s content. As many of my hon. Friends will know, I also chair the cross-party Youth Violence Commission, so this a subject of significant interest to me.
I will use my time to pick up on two main points. The first is my disappointment that new clause 6 was rejected in Committee. It calls for a report on the causes behind youth violence with offensive weapons within six months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. Although many of the Bill’s provisions are to be welcomed, I am concerned that the siloed approach of dealing with offensive weapons in isolation will do little to tackle serious violence. From my work with the commission, I know that the increase in youth violence that we are seeing is the result of a vulnerable cohort of young people being denied the support and multi-agency early intervention work necessary to prevent them from falling into a downward spiral.
New clause 6 calls for the Home Secretary to examine the effect not only of the reduction in police numbers on the levels of youth violence with offensive weapons, but of the reduction in public spending on children’s services, schools and local authorities. When the Minister was making her opening remarks, she struggled to stick within the confines of the Bill and touched on all these areas, so this new clause could be extremely useful to her.
My second point concerns the sale of knives. As recently as September, Lewisham police responded to reports of 40 young people storming a branch of Poundland in my neighbouring constituency of Lewisham East, with the intention of stealing knives and sharp implements. There is the Minister’s evidence. That is one of the reasons that she should implement this proposed legislation.
In the Make Your Mark ballot, more than 1.1 million young people voted for knife crime as their top priority. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker; we should be talking about this issue every single week in this Chamber. This issue is so important—our young people and our communities say it is important. If the Minister accepts one measure tonight, I urge her to accept new clause 6, so that we can thoroughly debate the issue.