Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:48 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Karen Lee Karen Lee Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Fire) 9:48 pm, 18th February 2019

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, although I do not plan to go through all their contributions because time is so limited.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary pointed out, this seems like a very rushed debate. It has been rushed forward with no indication that any action will follow. Based on the contributions, the Government’s continued inability to tackle the rise in serious violent crime seems unlikely to alter. It is clear from today’s debate that right hon. and hon. Members are deeply concerned about the rise in serious crime, and the Government’s lack of decisive action is also concerning. Ministers have failed to tackle the underlying causes of crime. In fact, their policies have made them worse.

Ministers are relying on eye-catching initiatives designed to achieve good headlines, but these do not amount to a strategy, or even to effective initiatives. The latest are their knife crime prevention orders, for which there is no evidence, and these follow Ministers’ support for more random stop and searches, more Tasers, more spit hoods, and so on and so on, none of which measures is supported by evidence.

Ministers have still failed to answer some basic questions about the knife crime prevention orders. They have failed to explain on what evidence the Home Office has based its new policy; if there is evidence, it should be made available to the House. They have failed to explain what oversight of the orders there will be, and what review or appraisal will be made of their effectiveness or otherwise. It is hard to see how, without evidence, the Minister can reasonably expect the orders to have any appreciable effect in reducing knife crime. There has also been no indication of what safeguards have been introduced to prevent the issuing of incorrect or inappropriate orders, and of whether we shall see any report examining the subjects of the orders by region, locality, family income and, of course, ethnicity.

This is all of a piece with the Government’s previous announcements. As my right hon. Friend Ms Abbott has pointed out, the evidence does not support an increase in stop and search. In November last year, researchers from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies examined data including a study commissioned by the Home Office, and concluded there was

“limited evidence of the effectiveness of stop and search in reducing crime”.

That is absolutely in line with the Home Office's own research, and with separate analysis conducted by the College of Policing. There is a similar absence of evidence to support the use of spit hoods, which are almost designed to humiliate those who are stopped, and the same is true of Tasers.

However, the Home Secretary and the Government do not seem to operate on the basis of evidence at all. In fact, their assurances about their own policies do not bear scrutiny. At the beginning of October last year , the Home Secretary announced that the Government were taking a dramatic turn towards the adoption of a public health approach to tackling violent crime, including knife crime. If that statement was not made simply as an irrelevant soundbite, can the Minister tell us, even now, how the new policy on knife crime prevention orders accords with the previous announcement of a public health approach?

The truth is that since 2010 the austerity policy as a whole has had the effect of worsening the causes of crime, and that since that year, successive Tory-led Governments have axed the jobs of 21,000 police officers. This is the real record on serious violence: it is a toxic cocktail of failure. Moreover, nothing has changed. Austerity continues in all areas of social policy, and it continues in policing. The latest police settlement is a cut in real terms, once the funding for police pensions is taken into account, and that is why I voted against it.

There is an alternative. There is Labour's alternative, which means truly ending austerity in every aspect of social policy, and, specifically, ending austerity in funding for the police. We will recruit thousands of extra police when we are in government, because that is what we need to tackle crime in the short and the medium term. The Government continue to operate as though it were possible to have safety and security on the cheap, but their own record shows that it is not. A Labour Government are needed to end this failure.