As the House has heard, the Government attach high priority to bearing down on the cycle of serious violence and have recently committed an additional £100 million to support police services in that effort.
Last Wednesday another life was tragically lost to serious violence in my constituency when a young man was shot at close range in West Norwood in the middle of the afternoon, leaving another family devastated and another community traumatised. The Government committed last October to a public health approach to serious violence, but they have taken until today to hold a meeting about it. When will the public health approach be implemented in full, and when will the killings stop?
I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Lady and the situation in her constituency—I, too, have suffered a recent murder in my constituency—but it is a misrepresentation of the Government’s position to say that we have just embarked on a journey of underpinning our strategy through a public health approach. What we have announced today is the launch of a consultation on a statutory duty to co-operate.
In addition to our need for police officers, public interface, intelligence gathering, evidence processing and so on depend on police staff. Does the Minister accept that the 30% cut in Suffolk police staff and the 72% cut in police community support officers since 2010 have reduced the capacity to investigate serious crime?
I have candidly recognised in the House that our police system has been under pressure, which is why we have increased public investment. As a result, police and crime commissioners across the country are recruiting, at the last count, around 3,000 officers, plus additional staff. I am mystified as to why the hon. Gentleman voted against it.
Collaboration across force boundaries is clearly crucial in helping the police not only to investigate but to tackle serious violent crime head on. What steps are being taken to help to promote that agenda?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising a fundamental point that goes to the heart of how crime and the demands on policing are changing and are increasingly not respecting borders. Specifically on county lines, we have supported the police with a multimillion pound investment in a new co-ordination centre that is already resulting in increased arrests and increased numbers of safeguarded children.
Does the Minister agree that what we need is more capacity building in the police to tackle gangs? Whether it is gangs of traffickers at Calais or county lines gangs in Kent, we need a war on crime and a war on gangs to make sure we combat drugs and properly secure our borders.
I recently visited Kent police, who are an outstanding example of an excellent force that is using the additional resources from the public to increase its capacity, with an additional 450 officers in recent years, and to take a very tough approach to knife crime, which is bearing fruit. I congratulate Kent officers on their hard work.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. A local officer recently told me that the police no longer have the resources available to provide the level of service most people rightfully expect and wanted me to tell the Government that without significant investment in policing this situation is unlikely to change. What does the Minister say to this dedicated officer, whose job is being made impossible due to savage budget cuts, and to the victims of crime, who are being let down so badly by this Government?
What I say to that officer is what I say to every officer who makes exactly the same point, which is a valid one: the Government understand that police officers are feeling very stretched and under pressure at the moment, which is exactly why we have increased investment in our police. It is exactly why we are investing more than £1 billion more in our police system. He may wonder why the hon. Lady voted against it.
It is unclear how the long delayed public health duty consultation announced today will make any difference, given that the agencies referenced already have those safeguarding responsibilities under crime and disorder partnerships. If today’s summit is to be anything more than another talking shop, we need to see urgent action on school exclusions, long-term police funding, mental health services, and youth services and diversion for young people. These systemic changes require a Government with the capability and the will to act. When can this House be assured that this Government have either?
We are already acting, and all the issues the hon. Lady mentioned were part of the discussion that I took part in, alongside the Prime Minister and other Ministers, with a range of experts today, where all were agreeing about the approach the Government are taking, underpinned by a public health approach. The hon. Lady was dismissive of the statutory duty to co-operate, but that has been welcomed by both the Mayor of London and the commissioner of police.