Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 6:25 pm, 15th May 2019

That is a really great idea for which I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who did so much in his past to work with young people. It is ideas of that sort that can really help to make a difference. I remember that in a previous debate, or it might have been an urgent question, my hon. Friend John Howell talked about how we, as Members of Parliament, are leaders in our local communities. We can help our local communities by understanding the resources available and the help and best practice that is out there, to really drive change in our local communities.

I think we all acknowledge that the creation of life chances for young people will require patience, hard work and commitment. It is not a quick fix. Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, rightly asked me, as part of her scrutiny of the work of Government, about the number of children at risk—the scale of the problem. My answer is that so many factors are at play—indeed, the serious violence strategy identifies 22 risk factors for children, which are balanced alongside protective factors that can mitigate those risk factors—that can determine whether a child is at risk of serious violence.

Let me give some examples of those factors. According to the Children’s Commissioner, some 27,000 children have identified themselves as being members of gangs. Some 7,720 pupils were excluded in 2016-17. Members will know that excluded pupils are over-represented in the population of perpetrators and victims of serious violence. Some 86,000 children have a parent in prison. Now, we are not saying for a moment that each and every one of those children is at significant risk of being either a perpetrator or a victim of knife crime, because no one factor alone determines that. They may have hugely mitigating protective factors that draw them away from the web of violence, but this is the complexity of it. This is the detail that we in the Home Office—I am extraordinarily grateful to my officials—have spent so much time examining, not only in the past 12 months since the strategy was published, but in the months before that, when the strategy was being prepared. As my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy emphasised, this is urgent and it requires urgent action. That is why we have put in place not only immediate action to tackle knife crime and serious violence, but action in medium and longer-term strategies.

In the immediate term, we have established a National County Lines Coordination Centre to tackle the violent and exploitative activity associated with the county lines drugs trade. My hon. Friend Douglas Ross noted the exponential rise in county lines and the fact that drug gangs respect no geographical borders. That point was also emphasised by Jessica Morden, who again referenced adverse childhood experiences.

My hon. Friend Julian Knight, who tirelessly campaigns for a police station in his metropolitan borough, also set out the complex policing challenges that living next to a major metropolitan city can and does have for his local police force.

Let me go back to the County Lines Coordination Centre and give Members an idea of the scale of the problem.