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Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:52 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 9:52 pm, 18th February 2019

I thank all Members who have spoken for their passionate and moving speeches, although I note—as I often need to—that Karen Lee has perhaps misjudged the tone of the debate.

Across our country, serious violence is robbing people of their futures, families of their loved ones, and children of their lives. My hon. Friend Douglas Ross spoke of the experiences of the families of Marcel, Godwin, Jay and Kenichi, and also spoke movingly of the work that their parents are now doing to try to stop knife crime. Mr Lammy spoke compellingly, as he always does—particularly about Pauline and Tanesha, two women who were killed in his constituency some 20 years apart.

This issue transcends party politics. Serious violence is a matter of grave concern to all of us, and to those whom we represent. If we in this place can be united in our anger, we can also be united in our efforts to tackle violent crime. As the Home Secretary said at the start of the debate, tackling violent crime is an absolute priority for the Government, but just as there is no one cause of serious violence, there is no one solution. It can only be effectively tackled though the combined efforts of Government, law enforcement and civil society—and, crucially, through a coherent short, medium, and long-term approach.

Through our serious violence strategy and our serious organised crime strategy, we are tackling those who ensnare young people in criminality, while intervening earlier to prevent them from being drawn into these terrible webs of violence. With immediate effect, the Government have set up the National County Lines Coordination Centre. We are taking the Offensive Weapons Bill through the House. We are also introducing knife crime prevention orders at the request of the police because they believe that this is one way to help prevent young people from being drawn into criminality. We have also handed out money through the anti-knife-crime community fund; I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Priti Patel and my hon. Friend Maggie Throup, who spoke about the contributions made by the voluntary sector in their constituencies. This has all been overseen by the cross-party serious violence taskforce, which includes the right hon. Member for Tottenham, for whose attention we are most grateful.

In the medium term, we are investing in our early intervention youth fund across the country to work with children and young people and steer them away from gangs and crime. We know of the link between drug markets and serious violence, so the news of a major independent review into drug misuse has been welcomed by hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Tottenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash, who spoke about the impact of synthetic cannabis in her constituency.

The Home Secretary has announced £1.4 million to enhance the ability of the police to tackle gang-related activity on social media. Colleagues across the House have spoken about the impact social media can have on gangs, including through bragging, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham mentioned, and the chilling evidence heard by the Science and Technology Committee, as set out by my hon. Friend Vicky Ford. The new social media hub will help the police and the tech companies bear down on those who would use social media to spread their criminality.

Our long-term strategy seeks explicitly to identify and tackle the root causes of violent behaviour. The only solution is prevention. That is why we are carrying out a consultation on a new legal duty to underpin a multi-agency public health approach to tackling serious violence. In practice, a duty would mean that police officers, education providers, local authorities and healthcare professionals would all have a legal responsibility to act to prevent violent crime.

A new £200 million youth endowment fund, delivered over 10 years, will support intervention with those children and young people most at risk and provide interventions to deliver long-lasting change. It is only by reaching out to the most vulnerable that we can combat violence now and in the future.

Members mentioned the role of exclusions in the vulnerability of children to being drawn into violent crime, or indeed being victims of it. The Home Office is working with the Department for Education on this issue, and alongside the exclusions review the Department for Education is providing £4 million through the alternative provision innovation fund to improve outcomes for children in non-mainstream education.

I am also grateful to colleagues who raised the role of adverse childhood experiences, as Gavin Newlands mentioned, and in particular the role that domestic abuse plays, sadly, in the lives of children drawn into violence. My right hon. Friend Jim Shannon both raised the issue of domestic abuse. From the work I have done in visiting youth workers and speaking to former members of gangs, it has been clear that domestic abuse is a theme that runs constantly through these young people’s lives. That is why the Domestic Abuse Bill will, as well as tackling domestic abuse, have huge positive impacts on the life chances of children who live in abusive households. I know there are colleagues across the House, including in the Opposition, who will be helping the Government bring that very important piece of legislation through. I hope the hon. Member for Strangford will forgive me if I promise to write to him rather than addressing the particular points he raised about domestic abuse in this debate, because we are, sadly, running short of time.

We are working to tackle the threat of county lines, to impede the supply of weapons and to identify those young people most at risk of violence, but I join all colleagues across the House who tonight have thanked their police officers working in their constituencies on the frontline, including the 55 new officers in Essex.

I was delighted to see the video on the social media pages of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. I also want to thank the police and crime commissioners and those in the voluntary sector do so much work with these young people. We heard tonight about the great work of Redthread, and there are many more charities that help us in this sphere. No one should have to face the pain and devastation that violent crime can cause a person, a family and a community, and by working together we will stop this—

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).