Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:11 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 6:11 pm, 15th May 2019

This has been a fantastic and wide-ranging debate, with truly excellent contributions from both sides of the House. It has demonstrated the complexity of the factors and causes behind serious violence, and the genuine crisis that is enveloping communities across the country. We heard from Gavin Newlands about the excellent public health model that is being championed in Scotland, from which lessons are being learned across England and Wales. He also talked about the policy implications of treating violence as a disease.

We also heard from my hon. Friend Vicky Foxcroft, who has been mentioned many times today. She is a true champion of the policy requirements relating to youth violence, and she is also the chair of the Youth Violence Commission. She made an incredibly powerful speech about the repeated patterns and characteristics of adverse childhood experiences. She gave us two “Sliding Doors” scenarios of young men growing up in vulnerable situations. One was unable to get the help he needed, but the other, who was similarly vulnerable, was able to access support structures and systems under an active, interventionist and caring approach that would prevent him from falling into violence or becoming a victim of violence himself. That reminded me of a young man in my own constituency, for whom I was desperately trying to get help. Sadly, his life was lost at the hands of another child in a similar way to that described by my hon. Friend.

The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, spoke about her Committee’s inquiry into serious violence. Crucially, it is taking note of the voices of young people, many of whom do not have a trusted police officer attached to their school or models of neighbourhood policing that they can respond to and get to know. She spoke about the need for the scale and pace of Government action to match the scale and pace of the violence that we are seeing. We have heard from many speakers today that the Government are not showing any signs of urgency in their response to the violence that is enveloping the country. My right hon. Friend gave examples of the evidence being given to her Committee, including quotes from senior police officers who said that the Government were more interested in narrative than in action, and from Louise Casey, who described the Government’s strategy as “woefully inadequate”.

The hon. Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) drew on their personal experience in the youth service and emphasised the need for education and prevention. That has been a reassuring theme—the focus on the need for early intervention and prevention. I think that there is cross-party agreement that that is essential, in addition to a strong criminal justice response.

There has been a huge focus on the cuts to youth services. My hon. Friend Rushanara Ali spoke about the cuts in her constituency and the increasing number of both children in care and exclusions. She pointed out that, although there have of course been spikes in youth violence under previous Governments, we have not had such a vulnerable cohort of young people at risk of falling into violence. There has been a sustained, year on year trend of growth in serious violence.

My hon. Friend Jessica Morden spoke about Gwent police’s excellent work. It is important to acknowledge the excellent initiatives in some police forces. I congratulate the Welsh Government on their “one public service” approach, their focus on adverse childhood experiences and their commitment to developing trauma-informed public services. She made the point, as we have all done, that resources are required to make that partnership working effective.

My hon. Friend Vernon Coaker gave his usual impassioned speech on the subject and called on the Home Secretary—it is great that he is here today—to come to the House more often to update us on his work and the Government’s progress, to convene Cobra and to show the urgency that the House clearly demands. There are 2,000 county lines with 10,000 children involved. The Government simply do not feel the urgency that that clearly demands.

Julian Knight talked about 700 young victims of knife crime last year in the west midlands and the £106 million in reserves that he believes West Midlands police are sitting on. I believe that he knows that that figure is from 2017 and that the actual figure is £43 million of available reserves, which is intended to fall to £30 million simply to balance the books. His police and crime commissioner intends to use all non-essential reserves by 2020-21.