Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:38 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department 8:38 pm, 18th February 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered serious violence.

We cannot ignore the rise of serious violence. Already this year we have seen seven fatal stabbings on London’s streets. I have met families of victims and seen at first hand the devastation that brutal violence can cause. I have seen police on the frontline working flat out to make our streets safer, and we must of course all do that we can to help them.

As Home Secretary, my No. 1 priority is to keep Britain safe. To do this, I am tackling serious violence head-on. As the threat has increased, so too has our response. I have listened to expert advice and acted wherever and whenever I could. I have been relentless in this mission so far, but it is clear that more must be done to stop this senseless slaughter; for the sake of all our young people, we are determined to deliver. That is why we published our serious violence strategy last April. We set out a tough law enforcement response that made it clear that this alone was not enough.

The strategy placed a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, preventing young people from being drawn into violence in the first place. It stressed the importance of a multi-agency response, with education, health, social services, housing, youth services and others all playing a part. The strategy also pinpointed the importance of tackling the drivers of serious violence, including the changes in drugs markets. Changes in the way drugs dealers operate and the rise of county lines gangs are fuelling the brutality on our streets. Social media also play a part, with gangs taunting each other online and ratcheting up tension and the risk of reprisal attacks. The strategy addressed those and other risk factors, such as exclusion from school. It set out our plans to do all we can to reduce serious violence.

We are delivering on the commitments we made in the strategy, and we are doing much more. I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on some of the progress we have made so far. First, we are tackling the root causes of violence and investing in our young people’s future. Our early intervention youth fund of £22 million is already supporting 29 projects in England and Wales, and more than £17 million has already been allocated to projects delivering interventions to young people at risk of criminal involvement, gang exploitation or county lines. The remainder of the money has been earmarked to help young people over the next two years. Indeed, our investment is increasing, with an additional £200 million for the youth endowment fund.

Secondly, we are taking a multi-agency public health approach to tackling violent crime. Cracking down on serious violence will take the whole of society: everyone has to play a part, so in October I launched this comprehensive new approach. This was underpinned by a package of measures including the youth endowment fund and the independent drugs misuse review. We will consult shortly on a new statutory duty on all Government Departments and public agencies to tackle serious violence. This will ensure that the whole of the public sector is playing its part to the max, working together on serious violence with everyone treating it as a priority.

Thirdly, we have introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill. We are taking a tough law enforcement approach to ensure that those who turn to violence have nowhere to hide. The Bill will close the net around violent criminals by giving the police more powers to tackle knives, acids and firearms. It will make it harder for young people to possess and purchase these dangerous weapons. The Bill will shortly complete its passage through the House of Lords.

Fourthly, I have announced the introduction of knife crime prevention orders. I have been clear that I will not sit back and wait another decade for the current cycle of violence to end. We continue to look at what more we can do, so no options are off the table if they can save lives. The police asked for this extra tool, so I intend to introduce these orders through an amendment to the Bill. Some people have expressed concerns, and I understand that. They have suggested that the orders are designed to criminalise young people, but that is absolutely not the case. The orders will be preventive, not a punishment. They will enable the police and other agencies to help those who are most vulnerable to carrying a knife to escape a life of escalating violence.