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

Of course, we take that very, very seriously. The hon. Gentleman will know, with his experience as a Minister, that the Home Secretary meets not just the director of the NCA, but other very senior police and law enforcement officers regularly. This is very much part of an ongoing discussion. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already ensured that we have extra funding for the police and for serious organised crime. There is, of course, the spending review coming up, and the message is heard and understood. The hon. Gentleman did challenge the Home Secretary and—I think—me to bang the table a bit. I do not want to put words—or actions, as it were—into the Home Secretary’s mouth, but it is fair to say that he listened to the concerns of chief constables and police and crime commissioners, and made an impassioned case to the Chancellor, to which the Chancellor listened very carefully. In his spring statement, the Chancellor provided an extra £100 million to deal specifically with serious violence, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Gedling will be pleased that more than £1.5 million of that is going to Nottinghamshire police.

Reacting to feedback from the police, we have announced changes to section 60 stop-and-search powers to make it simpler for officers in seven force areas to use the powers in anticipation of serious violence. Hon. Members will also be aware of the ongoing Operation Sceptre events that take place across all forces at particular times of the year and have so much impact.

There has rightly been a focus on early intervention, so I will run through just some of the successes and mention the range of young people we are reaching through our efforts. The #knifefree media advertising has reached around 6 million young people each time we have refreshed it, and there have been millions of views of the campaign videos. In the latest iteration, about half a million people have visited the knifefree.co.uk website since 8 April. I encourage hon. Members to spread the word about #knifefree and the website.

Our £22 million early intervention youth fund is already supporting 29 projects endorsed by police and crime commissioners across England and Wales. At least 60,000 children and young people will be reached by this fund by the end of March 2020. Through our anti-knife crime community fund, we have supported 68 local grassroots community projects across England and Wales, reaching at least 50,000 young people in 2018-19. We are also supporting targeted interventions for intensive one-to-one support for people already involved in serious violence or county lines-related exploitation, through the St Giles Trust, Redthread and our young people’s advocates. We have already supported more than 800 young people in 2018-19 through these specific and targeted interventions, and that support continues. I have not even mentioned the £920 million troubled families programme, or the many various Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport schemes, including the Premier League Kicks programme, the success of which has been described by my hon. Friends the Members for Moray and for Solihull.

I will finish this part of my speech by saying an enormous thank you to everyone who works with young people to help tackle and prevent serious violence.

I will now quickly run through the medium and long-term measures we are taking. In the medium term, £35 million of the £100 million announced in the spring statement will be used to help establish violence reduction units in the seven forces that account for more than half of knife crime across the country. Officials are working with the people who will be involved in those discussions, and we will share those proposals as soon as we can next month. However, real progress will require a step change in the way in which all public authorities work together, which is why a multi-agency approach is fundamental to supporting the battle against violent crime.

The Prime Minister’s summit, to which we invited young people, bereaved families of victims, professionals, academics, faith leaders and businesspeople—pretty much anyone we could think of whom we could include in our efforts—has already made an impact, and will have a real effect from the centre of Government. It is essential that the Prime Minister is showing such leadership on the issue because all these efforts are being co-ordinated across all areas of Government.

At a local level, this is about partners working together, which is why we are consulting on a new legal duty to underpin a multi-agency approach. The consultation closes on 28 May, so I urge anyone who is interested to respond to it. We have also announced an independent review of drugs. There was surprisingly little discussion about the drugs market in this debate, but we know that it is one of the major drivers of serious violence, which is why the Home Secretary has commissioned Professor Dame Carol Black to conduct a review of drug use in the 21st century.