Violent Crime

– in the House of Commons on 17th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on what the Government are doing to protect people from violent crime.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

It is with great sadness that I stand here today following events over the weekend, including a fatal stabbing in the constituency of Jim Fitzpatrick, fatal stabbings in Tooting and West Ham, and a fatal shooting in Plumstead. Those incidents are subject to police investigations; arrests have been made in some cases, but I know that the House will understand that I cannot go into any more detail on those particular cases at this point.

These events are a stark reminder that serious violence is a continuing threat. There is no single or simple answer, and the police, local authorities, police and crime commissioners and others are working with us, taking action on a number of fronts, locally, regionally and nationally, in the immediate term and in the longer term.

In the immediate term, we continue to support the police response to serious violence. We have made it simpler for the police in those areas most affected to use section 60 no-suspicion stop-and-search powers. The new £100 million serious violence fund is already helping the police in those areas most affected: £65 million has now been allocated and work is under way to deliver the remaining £35 million to support the roll-out and expansion of violence reduction units.

As I think hon. Members acknowledge, however, the root causes of serious violence will take time to tackle. That is why we are focusing so strongly on prevention and early intervention, to stop our young people turning to violence in the first place. We are investing more than £220 million in projects under the youth endowment fund and our early intervention youth fund, and we have run a public consultation on a new legal duty to underpin the multi-agency, or public health, approach to tackling serious violence. We are reviewing the responses and will report as soon as possible.

We also continue to support police co-ordinated action under Operation Sceptre. The latest phase of the operation took place in March and saw almost 11,000 knives taken off the streets. Through our #knifefree media campaign, we have sent new lesson plans to 20,000 teachers in advance of the school summer holidays. Now that the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 has received Royal Assent, we will begin to bring its measures into force, including the piloting of knife crime prevention orders. As the House will know, following the Prime Minister’s serious youth violence summit at the beginning of April, a new ministerial taskforce is driving action right across Government to renew our efforts in tackling serious violence.

We are working closely with police and crime commissioners, including the Mayor of London, the police and other partners to tackle violence and to save lives. We remain determined to protect the public and to stop more lives being taken, but Members will appreciate that there is no short cut to tackling serious violence.

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse

I am grateful to the Minister for her response and I share her opening sentiments.

There have been four murders in London in four days, with two murders in my constituency in two weeks. I commend Tower Hamlets police for early arrests in both incidents. Londoners do not want to see politicians scoring points and/or playing party politics; they want answers and they want action. Clearly, police numbers have an impact—Towers Hamlets has lost 200 officers since 2010—but I accept that the Minister says recruitment is under way. We need those recruits on the frontline. What discussions has the Minister had with the Mayor of London and/or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about the deployment of those new officers and on the impact of the number of police on our streets?

On powers, will the Minister advise on the Government’s position on stop and search? She mentioned it, but the sensitivity of the bad old days of black and minority ethnic men and boys being disproportionately stopped should be prevented by the arrival of cameras for frontline officers. What has been the impact of the Government’s proposal from the end of March to reduce the level of authorisation required from senior officer to inspector? Will the Minister advise whether section 60 is actually still needed and whether consideration has been given to restoring discretionary powers to frontline officers? Mayor Biggs and Tower Hamlets Council have invested £3 million to fund additional police officers. Will the Minister advise on what discussions she has had with Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ministerial colleagues in respect of more support for the local authority, and on how the Home Office feeds into the London violence reduction unit, which is trying to replicate the success of the Glasgow violence reduction unit?

This situation cannot go on. President Trump’s puerile intervention is not helpful. We need a more proactive and intelligent response. My constituents are anxious and they are frightened. They see low-level anti-social behaviour escalating to violent crime. We need a holistic approach to be advocated by the Government, the Minister, Mayor Khan and Mayor Biggs. The Government have control of the resources. I know it is not just about money, but it does help massively.

In conclusion, will the Minister advise on what representations the Home Office are making to the spending review to prevent more lives being lost? The police are working hard and they need our support, both moral and financial. Today, we all need to say clearly and bluntly that we join together in stopping this going any further.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his urgent question and for his attendance at the roundtable I hosted recently, along with the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, to update the House on our efforts to tackle serious violence. If I may say so, I think the hon. Gentleman has got the tone right. Putting aside comments from overseas or elsewhere, the job of work is to tackle serious violence.

The hon. Gentleman mentions police resources. He will know that London has already set up a serious violence taskforce and a violence reduction unit. The taskforce has some 300 dedicated officers—I have been out on a raid with them—targeting the hotspot areas within London. The commissioner and others in the policing world are doing specific work across the country to identify and target hotspot areas. I hope the hon. Gentleman welcomed the announcement in the spring statement of a further £100 million to tackle serious violence. The Met is receiving about £20 million of that to support surge policing. As I say, announcements will be made imminently in relation to the outstanding money and the creation of violence reduction units, as well as those that have already been created.

We have seen a huge increase in stop and search across the Met and other policing areas. We analyse this very carefully, and I am pleased that at the most recent meeting that the Home Secretary held with chief constables, they all reported that levels of complaints about stop and search have dropped dramatically. Many of us understand that to be because of the use of body-worn cameras, which provide reassurance not only to officers, but importantly, to the public.

In terms of discussions with MHCLG, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have welcomed the recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the specific funding of knife crime projects.

On the spending review, we are working across Government to ensure that we have a cross-governmental spending review programme to help the children who are not just most at risk of serious violence, but have other forms of vulnerabilities, which, sadly, I have to deal with in my brief, including, for example, domestic abuse. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot go into the specifics of the spending review at the moment, but the fact that we have seen an increase this year of more than £1 billion, including the £100 million in the spring statement, and that we have the help of police and crime commissioners, is a firm statement of intention by the Home Secretary and the Government. I thank him again for his urgent question.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset

I was delighted to hear what my hon. Friend had to say about targeting hotspots. Does she agree that it is now clear that properly used and monitored stop and search is part of the answer, and will she confirm that the Government will continue along that line?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for the experience that he brings to the House from his shadow portfolios over the years. We have always said that stop and search is a vital tool for law enforcement. We are all conscious in this House that a few years ago there was a real problem regarding the trust that certain parts of our society felt in relation to stop and search, and we wanted to try to reassure communities. That reassurance is now there, particularly with the introduction of body-worn cameras. Victims’ families and others I speak to welcome the intelligence-led targeting of stop and search, as well as the section 60 search powers for moments when police action is necessary and needs to be immediate.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary

Another blood-stained weekend in the capital, and this morning four families will have woken up having lost a son, a brother or a father. The Minister is correct to say that there is no single answer, and we congratulate the Met police on its work over this horrible weekend that we have endured, but does she accept that any strategy to combat rising crime must include hiring more police officers?

I note that the level of complaints about stop and search has dropped, which is very important. As the Minister intimates, that is to do with the use of body-worn cameras, because there is no question but that in the past, indiscriminate stop and search undermined communities’ confidence in the police and therefore undermined the fight against crime.

In relation to the President of the United States implying that the Mayor of London is responsible for the rise in violent crime, the Mayor must be held to account like any other politician, but in 30 years in Parliament I have never heard a President of the United States reference a London Mayor at all. It is hard to escape the conclusion that President Trump may be singling out Sadiq Khan because he is of the Muslim faith. Does the Minister accept that if that were true, many people would find it distasteful?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I welcome the fact that the right hon. Lady welcomes our action to ensure that stop and search has the trust of more people in communities. We see it as a vital tool within the portfolio of tools that police officers and others have. If she does not mind, I will decline to respond to the point about President Trump, for the simple reason that, as I know from the urgent question, we all have at the forefront of our minds today the four families who have been affected in the most terrible way this weekend. I hope she will forgive me if, today of all days, I do not dive into the political pool.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I thank my hon. Friend for her openness in engaging with colleagues on this difficult issue, particularly the roundtable she held a short while ago. Will she confirm that she, her Department and her officials will remain open to a proper independent assessment of all the evidence on the root causes of this issue and will engage with the evidence with an open mind?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank my hon. Friend for his participation in the recent roundtable. I can reassure colleagues across the House that hon. Members, particularly those representing the constituencies most affected by knife crime, will benefit from regular updates from the Home Office ministerial team. The roundtable was one example of that. We know that drugs and the gang culture around them are key drivers of serious violence—we have only to look at recent reports of what is allegedly happening in Liverpool—and one way we are attempting to tackle that is through the independent review of drug use in the 21st century led by Professor Dame Carol Black. We will consider the results carefully and, as he says, with an open mind.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I congratulate Jim Fitzpatrick on securing the urgent question. I cannot begin to comprehend the sense of loss experienced by those families who have lost loved ones to violence in recent days, and we too send our deepest condolences to all who are suffering. I agree with him that the totally wrong response is to tweet or retweet racist jibes about the Mayor of London.

As the Minister knows, my party fully supports a public health approach to stopping violence, which has delivered significant progress in Scotland and elsewhere, and that the SNP supports and has delivered on protecting police numbers. We support the Government’s commitment to a public health approach, therefore, but when will we see an end to the significant cuts, particularly to local authority budgets, that have seen the safe spaces and key services crucial to such an approach decimated? While we also welcome the Home Secretary’s recent personal commitment to repairing the dramatic loss in police numbers, does the Minister share our support?

Finally, the Home Affairs Select Committee has heard disturbing evidence from young people, particularly young black and minority ethnic people, about their very poor relationship with and lack of trust in the police in some parts of London. What will the Minister do to ensure that trust is rebuilt between young people and the police in all our communities?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Gentleman is always a constructive and critical friend of the Government in this sphere. I will deal with his last point first. We have to reiterate to young people, particularly in the areas most affected by serious violence, that the police are on their side. I do not underestimate the complexity of this piece of work. It will take a great deal of time for the police to rebuild their relationships. Just a couple of weeks ago, I invited into the Home Office current and former gang members to listen to them myself and hear about their day-to-day lives, the challenges they face and their thoughts on how we can improve not just the rates of serious violence but their lives more generally. I have taken great inspiration from those conversations, as well as from my meetings with the families of victims from across the country. There are various plans in motion to assist with the public relationship between the police and young people in particular, and there is one in particular I want to focus on. I hope the hon. Gentleman does not mind if I do not go into detail at very early stage, as I do not want to announce something before it has happened, but we are very conscious of the need to build relationships between the police and the people they are trying to protect.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

While there is a definite link between drugs, criminal gangs and knife crime, and while the police response must involve a surge in visible policing and discretionary stop and search, surely we must place greater emphasis on intelligence-led detective work to break up the criminal gangs, and on exemplary sentences for the gang leaders who are caught.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

There is an understandable tendency to focus on the law enforcement response and on our early prevention strategy, but an important part of this formula is the behaviour of serious organised crime gangs. These are the people who exploit our young people and children, these are the people who try to extend their drug markets across the country, and these are the people whom we absolutely must target if we are to bring an end to this. Along with the Minister for Security and Economic Crime, my right hon. Friend Mr Wallace, I have emphasised the need to target serious organised crime, including the profits that the criminals make from their disgraceful, disgusting business. I shall be happy to discuss the issue with my hon. Friend in more detail after the urgent question, but I can assure him that tackling serious organised crime is an essential part of our overall efforts to target serious violence.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Yet more lives have been lost, more families are devastated, and there are disturbing reports of older gang members paying young people to stab, maim and kill. However, the letter that the Minister has just sent to the Home Affairs Committee suggests that the surge funding for policing is for only one year, which limits police forces’ ability to recruit the officers they need, and also that the youth endowment fund will support only £6 million-worth of projects this year, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the scale of the cuts in youth services and interventions. Does the Minister not understand the real concern about the lack of grip, the lack of urgency, and the lack of scale in the Government’s response? Can she really put her hand on her heart and say, in the light of this escalating violence, that the Home Office is doing enough?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

In the letter, we made clear that while the spring statement included £100 million for police forces, the Home Secretary had committed himself to making resources for them an absolute priority in our spending review. In our conversations with chief constables who are either already setting up violence reduction units locally in, for instance, the west midlands, or are beginning to do so as a result of this announcement, we fully acknowledge that the funds cannot be just for a single year.

As for the youth endowment fund, we have locked in the money over 10 years, precisely because we have listened to local charities and those who work closely with young people. They say that it is often the short-term resourcing that is a problem, so we are investing £200 million, although it is expected to be more over the 10-year period. To demonstrate the urgency that we have ascribed to this issue, we have managed to move £200 million off the Government books in, I think, an almost unprecedentedly short time—a matter of a couple of months—which will seem pretty extraordinary to anyone who has not served in a Government Department. We have put the fund into an independent charitable trust, which is running it. The bids for the first round will close on 23 July, so if there are local charities that Members think should apply, I ask them please to press them into doing so. We expect the trust to make the first announcements of bids in the autumn.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Our current focus is obviously on the tragic events that took place in London over the weekend, but may I urge the Minister not to lose sight of the growing concerns of my constituents, from Barton in the north to Cleethorpes and the villages in the south? Thankfully, Humberside police numbers have been increased significantly and they do some excellent work, but they need continuing reassurance that resources will be made available to provincial forces such as theirs.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

It is always a pleasure to answer a question from my constituency neighbour. We might be separated by a constabulary boundary, but I absolutely understand the ripple effect of serious organised crime and of county lines gangs in areas such as ours. That is why one of our first actions to help those force areas that might not have the experience of gangland activity of some of our larger urban or metropolitan forces is the setting up of the national co-ordination centre on county lines, in order to help spread good practice. I am pleased to say that in just the few months it has been operating that centre has caused more than 1,000 arrests and the safeguarding of more than 1,300 vulnerable people.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Last night my community was violated yet again by a murder; it has been a terrible few years in West Ham, with nine young lives lost. The hon. Lady talks about money but we need proper funding. We do not need projects; we need police officers. We do not need overtime payments; we need something fundamental that raises the level of police activity. We are told that there are 1,000 county lines operations in this country. I want to be assured by the Minister today that there are 1,000 investigations into who is running those gangs and who are ultimately responsible for the murder, exploitation and enslavement of many young people in my constituency.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Lady has been a consistent advocate for her constituents, who have been so tragically affected by the rise of county lines. I remember a debate more than a year ago in Westminster Hall where she spoke passionately of the impact on mothers affected by serious violence and homicides in her constituency. The National Crime Agency has set county lines and the exploitation of children as a national threat; it is co-ordinating the national level operations because it has the national overview. That is where the national county lines co-ordination centre comes in, to help co-ordinate activities across force boundaries, because as the hon. Lady will acknowledge, these gangs to do not respect constabulary boundaries. We have the extra funding—the £100 million serious violence fund that is going into London and other areas affected—and of course we have just over £1 billion of extra funding for policing nationally. The hon. Lady will know from the many conversations she and I have had about this issue that it is as much about early intervention and prevention as about law enforcement, and the £200 million youth endowment fund, alongside the early intervention youth fund which is already operating and helping up to 29 projects across the country, will help reach those children she cares so passionately about.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

How can the anger of the public be assuaged when, notwithstanding the powers granted to the courts, they see continually repeat offences rewarded only with a suspended sentence?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. That has to be the focus of everyone with any influence in this area, including the judiciary. I am not going to comment or be drawn into observations about the judiciary, because of course I respect the independence of the judiciary, but I believe Members of Parliament can have an impact in publicising the terrible toll of knife crime on their constituencies, whether through possession or the use of knives, so that when judges and magistrates make decisions they have in mind the deterrent effect of their sentences as well as all the other factors that we would expect them to bear in mind.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

The most recent serious act of violence in London took place three and a half hours ago in my constituency: it was a shooting in a perfectly quiet residential street. As my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick said, we cannot go on like this; this has to be addressed. The police and council in my borough of Waltham Forest are throwing everything they can at this, including preventive strategies, but when struggling with seriously and profoundly constricted budgets it is very difficult for those preventive measures to have any real meaning. Will the Minister meet me and the leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clare Coghill, to talk about what the council and police are doing and what additional resources they need?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Gentleman is a consistent campaigner for his constituency and of course I am happy to meet him. At the risk of volunteering the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, my right hon. Friend Mr Hurd, I should point out that he is also the Minister for London and he may be a good person to meet as well. We will certainly get a meeting arranged.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

As my hon. Friend will recall, I have frequently called on Ministers to bring to book the social media companies and ensure that they are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that this violence is not being encouraged through their social media channels. How is that dialogue going?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

My hon. Friend is consistent in his message to social media companies about their huge responsibility in hosting videos, pictures and so on on their platforms. This is an ongoing dialogue and, in fairness to the social media companies, we are seeing some progress, but it is not enough. That is why we have helped the Metropolitan police to set up its social media hub, to ensure that drill music videos in particular, which can often incite violence, are taken down as quickly as possible. Also, through the online harms White Paper, we are advocating the idea of companies having a duty of care of towards the wider public.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

We all agree that early intervention and prevention are part of the public health approach, but I sometimes worry that when we use that language, we are not actually following it through. Cross-departmental working is at the heart of the public health approach, so can the Minister update us on how that is going in relation to education, mental health, youth work, early intervention—Sure Start, for example—and the police? Also, has she done any work on pooled budgets, to ensure that the money follows the issue and that we do not simply have everybody fighting over their own departmental budgets?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. On the work that is ongoing across the Government, she will know about the Prime Minister’s serious youth violence summit, the purpose of which was to drive action across the Government. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that the Department for Education has a huge role to play, as does the NHS and others. Indeed, only last week I visited an alternative provision school to see for myself the work being done on the ground to help young people who are at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of serious violence. On the actions arising out of the summit, there is now a specific ministerial group attended by all the relevant Secretaries of State, as well as a unit within the Cabinet Office, to drive this work forward, so it really is at the centre of Government.

On the question of spending priorities, spending review discussions are ongoing and it will not surprise the hon. Lady to know that I have been emphasising the need for us to help vulnerable people—particularly those who might have been subject to adverse childhood experiences —at an early stage in life. That has huge benefits both for the way in which society enjoys itself and for the Home Office and its partners not having to pick up the pieces.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Yet more lives have been taken too early, and yet more families have been left to mourn their loss. Of course the police need resources, but they also need powers. In this instance, knife crime prevention orders are a power that the police and the Mayor of London have asked for. May I ask the Minister when we will be in a position to see these orders rolled out, in the hope that the entire House will give them the chance to succeed?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

My hon. Friend is a consistent advocate not just for his constituency but for the young people he has helped to escape a life of crime in the past. He asks about knife crime prevention orders. The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 has recently received Royal Assent, and we are aiming to introduce the secondary legislation that we need to alter to enable the piloting of these orders as soon as possible. We are intending to do this in the autumn. The police asked for these preventive powers, and through the Offensive Weapons Act, we have been able to deliver them.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the London Borough of Newham’s recent decision to appoint 30 additional youth workers? Does she recognise that drastic cuts in youth service funding since 2010 have made the current problems worse?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I genuinely thank the right hon. Gentleman for all that he does on this issue. It is a particular issue in his constituency, and I respect his work. I welcome that announcement about youth workers. The way in which youth services have been funded is, of course, a point of tension between the Government and the Opposition, but if the London Borough of Newham has been able to find the resources to invest in that, and if it thinks that that is the best way of spending that money, that is the sort of local approach that we fully support. I wish those youth workers the very best in their work in his constituency.

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow

The recent murders in the constituency of my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick have sent shockwaves through our borough. Knife crime in Tower Hamlets has increased by 34% over the past eight years. We are having to come to the House week in, week out to ask the Government to intervene, to provide more policing, more youth facilities and more services, to protect people, to prevent crime, and to prevent the needless loss of lives. Does the Minister agree that this crisis is a national emergency? Although she has been put up to defend the Government and to explain the situation, this is not good enough. The Government must take serious action and invest serious amounts of money to tackle this problem, or we will sadly be back here again next week and the week after to raise these issues. Things cannot go on like this.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I respectfully remind the hon. Lady that if she reads the serious violence strategy, she will see the key drivers of serious violence that have been identified by my excellent Home Office officials. Looking at the evidence, she will also be reminded of the fact that those drivers include drugs, and she will know of our international work to draw together colleagues from across the world to share intelligence and operational best practice as to how to tackle serious violence. For example, at the Prime Minister’s knife crime summit we heard from an eminent professor from Chicago about how violence in the home is a high indicator that someone will be either a victim or a perpetrator of violence on the streets. That is why, for example, the domestic abuse Bill, the introduction of which I hope the whole House supports, is a key piece of work. Although I absolutely hear and understand representations about resources, we cannot just look at this as a resources issue. We must look at the wider key drivers of crime, which include drugs and violence in the home.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

May I say to the Minister that anyone watching this session will be looking on with a sense of incredulity? Where is the passion, the indignation, and the horror about what is happening on our streets, not just in London but across the country? Violent crime is soaring and has been for months. Members across the House have raised the matter with the Government, but all we get is, “A million here, and a million there,” which is peanuts given the problems we face. This is a national emergency! Cobra should meet, and the Government should bring the same urgency and dynamism to the situation that they would bring if there had been—God forbid—a terrorist attack. It is about time that the Minister got a grip on the situation. For that matter, where is the Home Secretary? I have raised this matter again and again. He is absent without leave, busy fighting for the Tory leadership when he should be here doing his day job.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

This is not about my tone or the hon. Gentleman’s tone; it is about action to help the families most affected by serious violence. I, for one, think there is a little too much anger in politics at the moment. Anger is not going to solve the problems of serious violence. It is our expectation that all our partners across the country will work together to address this, particularly through the new public health duty on which we recently consulted. It is by working together, and not through shouting and banging tables, that we will make progress.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

Why does the Minister think we are still seeing an escalation in violent crime? She has read out a list of measures and projects that the Government are implementing, so why are we not seeing results?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am always very careful with statistics, because I am conscious that any use of statistics involves a family’s son, daughter, brother or sister, but I ask the hon. Lady to look at the Metropolitan police’s most recent statistics on knife crime in the city.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Labour, Birmingham, Northfield

I recommend to the Minister the youth violence intervention programme run by Redthread, which sees trained youth workers embedded in A&E departments at certain hospitals in Birmingham, Nottingham and elsewhere to intervene and win the confidence of young victims of violent crime at a time that can make a real difference in breaking the cycle of their involvement in violent crime. It is a great project, but what assurance can she give me that such projects will receive the sustainable funding they need so that they can be rolled out into every A&E department in the country?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning the work of Redthread. The Home Office is investing in Redthread’s projects in Nottingham, Birmingham and London hospitals, and I have seen its work at close hand. I am very impressed by what Redthread does.

We will, of course, look at rolling out the project further, but I hesitate because some A&E departments thankfully do not see the levels of knife crime that perhaps London, Nottingham and Birmingham do. We have invested in those hospitals because we are targeting funding at hotspot areas, but we will look at where the project could assist by being rolled out further.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

The Minister should not selectively use statistics. Violent crime is significantly up, and we warned the Government when they were cutting police numbers that it would have an impact on crime. We were told that it is not about numbers but about the effective use of our police forces. She must now regret cutting 20,000 police officers, which must have an impact on what we are discussing today. What we want to hear from the Government is not about projects but about how much they will put into the police and how many of the police officers we have lost will be replaced.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am not selectively using statistics. I referred Diana Johnson to the Metropolitan police statistics precisely because of the action that the commissioner has taken in London, including setting up the serious violence taskforce, which, as I said earlier, dedicates 300 officers to hotspot policing across the capital. The commissioner has said that the recent figures show a decline in the increase, which is what I was talking about. It was not selective at all. I am just looking at the most recent evidence we have.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

I inform the Minister that Opposition Members do not feel anger but passion, upset and worry about the numbers of young people affected, including those who have lost their life in my constituency, and about the apparent lack of urgency from this Government in addressing what is a national crisis. We saw many lives taken in London this weekend, and I was at a knife crime forum in my constituency on Friday to meet families, stakeholders and constituents who are worried and angry about the lack of action by this Government.

Is it not now time for the Government to take this seriously and recognise that when they cut funding for the police, for education and for youth services, it means we no longer have enough youth workers to work with our young people? Will she finally take note and make a significant investment in youth services so that our young people have a future and a hope?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

Action we have taken in the past 12 month includes: the serious violence taskforce, chaired by the Home Secretary and attended by the Mayor of London; the ministerial taskforce, chaired by the Prime Minister, to drive cross-governmental action; the establishment of the national county lines co-ordination centre, which has seen more than 1,000 arrests and more than 1,300 people safeguarded; the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, which is tightening the law on knives, acids and firearms, including through knife crime prevention orders; Operation Sceptre, which has been rolled out by police forces in weeks of action, the most recent of which saw nearly 11,000 knives taken off the streets; the anti-knife crime community fund, which funds small local projects—68 of them last year; the £22 million early intervention youth fund, funding 29 projects across the country; the #knifefree national media campaign, which has had more than 6 million views and 20,000 teachers receiving lesson plans in June; investing in Redthread intervention work in A&E departments in London, Birmingham and Nottingham; setting up the £200 million youth endowment fund; closing the public health duty consultation at the end of this month—and we are responding as quickly as we can; setting up an independent review on drugs; commissioning and receiving voluntary commitments from major retailers to prevent the under-age sale of knives in stores and online; giving more than £1 billion extra to the police this year, including £100 million from the serious violence and with the help of police and crime commissioners; making it easier for officers to use section 60 stop-and-search powers; investing £96 million to support victims and witnesses, through the Ministry of Justice; and supporting a new national police capability to tackle gang-related activity on social media.

That shows the complexity and range of the actions we are taking. I hope the hon. Lady is asking the same question of the Mayor of London, because we all bear a responsibility—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady laughs as I say this and does some funny actions. I do not know why she is taking this in such a light-hearted fashion. This is deeply serious. This is the commitment of the Government and our local partners, and we all should really be working together to stop this violence.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

Whether we are talking about police officers required to tackle county lines from Liverpool to north Wales and Cheshire, or police officers needed to tackle the issues that my colleagues have mentioned in London, it must be clear to the Minister that there are not sufficient numbers of police on the streets. The Home Secretary himself, in his leadership bid, has said that we require 20,000 more police officers. Will the Minister tell us when she intends to secure additional officers? I am talking not just about through the spending review, but now.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The right hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that PCCs across the country are recruiting up to 3,000 new officers as a result of the new settlement that we—[Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service reminds me that Labour Members voted against this new settlement. As I was saying, this is as a result of the £1 billion extra we are investing in policing.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for her measured response. The violence over the weekend continues to cause great concern. Does she agree that to combat the violence there is a need for a joint strategy, both nationally and locally? Nationally this should be done through Government policy resourcing and funding, and locally it should be done alongside chief constables, with community policing. Together, they can address the crime, reduce the violence, restore confidence among the general public and make the streets a safer place to walk again.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and he is absolutely right to say that efforts to tackle serious violence must be driven at the national, regional and local level. Efforts that will work in one part of the country may not work in another. That is precisely why when the Home Secretary has been meeting chief constables to discuss best operational practice we have been very careful to respect the fact that not only will the police tell us what powers they need—this is precisely why we introduced knife crime prevention orders, through the Offensive Weapons Act—but they will need operational independence to ensure that what they do locally is what they believe will best fit their local area.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

The Minister has clearly outlined interventions and a list of preventions that the Government are seeking to administer, but what is she doing to support young people exiting crime? To what extent does she believe that discrimination and socioeconomic factors in particular affect care leavers, black young people and white working-class young people, and their ability to get ahead in life?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

On the hon. Lady’s last point, in my meetings with former and current gang members, as well as with youth workers, I am struck by the fact that certain groups in a generation of young people find it particularly difficult to access opportunities. That is why one thing I am looking into is the development of opportunities for young people in the areas most affected by serious violence. If we are to steer young people and children away from a life of crime, we have to ensure that they have opportunities beyond that. There is, for example, a big role for large companies, which could help to invest in or set up traineeships and so on in hotspot areas, as part of their overall corporate social responsibility.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I could forgive any Minister for being overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of this problem, but surely this is not a time for more projects, for consultation and for taking refuge in strategy while blood flows unhindered down our city streets. Last week, the A&E consultant at my local hospital said to me that the damage done by knives is in their pointed tip. If more knives had curved ends instead of sharp points, we would reduce deaths through knife crimes by 90%. Will Minister consider that? It is a practical, realistic option that we could undertake here and now. Will she discuss it with manufacturers, importers and retailers? There is no reason why a knife should have a point: we can slice, dice, cut and shape with a curved-edge knife. It would save lives. It is a small, practical thing, but honestly it could be a lifesaver.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion. We have previously looked into the idea. As we discussed during consideration of the Offensive Weapons Bill, there is a balancing act to strike between kitchen knives having a legitimate use—we all have sharp-pointed knives in our kitchens—and the real harm that these objects can cause if they fall into the wrong hands or are taken out of the kitchen or the home. Thus far, we have concluded that changing the design of knives would not assist, but I am always very open to looking into the idea. I will continue to review the evidence, but we felt that for the moment there were better ways to achieve the balancing act between the legitimate and illegitimate use of kitchen knives. Of course, helping mums, dads and carers to understand that if they are worried about their child, there are places they can go to seek help, particularly through the #knifefree campaign, may be one way for parents to understand how they can control what happens to the knives in their kitchen drawers.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

Does the Minister not understand that we are reaping the whirlwind —that £1 billion has been taken out of the Met budget and we are being asked to be grateful for the small amount we are now getting back—and that youth services have been decimated, including in my own borough, where all funding was removed and we lost two thirds of all early-prevention services? Even Westminster City Council is now beginning to recognise, years later, the need to give something back. It is simply not good enough to read out a list of initiatives that are now expected to come into place. We do not want anger from the Minister; we want urgency.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am a little confused, because earlier Vernon Coaker urged me to be angry. I am sorry that the hon. Lady takes issue with that. I am not angry at all, in that this has always been my approach. I have prosecuted serious organised crime and I have seen the terrible aftermath of these gangs through my work in the criminal justice system. This requires a methodical, cool-headed analysis of the evidence. The reason I read out the list was to give a flavour to the House of the range of activities that is happening on a national and local basis to tackle knife crime. Of course, there is so much more that local authorities are doing, as we have heard from hon. Members already, but, to my mind, this is about a methodical and hard-headed approach to looking at the evidence to see what works. That is precisely why I assume that she will welcome the emphasis we are putting on the evaluation of the various charitable projects that will be funded through the Youth Endowment Fund. We have made that an absolute requirement of the way in which the fund is run, so that we can discover what works and what does not work and invest in those projects that do.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

May I impress on the Minister the feeling that an Opposition Back-Bench MP has when attending a vigil of thousands of young people and are somehow made to feel responsible for the loss of a loved one? There is this utter sense of helplessness when you have had Backbench debates, when you have had a one-to-one with the Secretary of State—who by the way is not in his place today on this most important of topics—and when you have had a one-to-one with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to talk about early intervention. You have ticked every box: you have had the community meeting; you have had the listening meeting; and then you get the reply. This is after you have been to the vigil and held in your arms the mother who is crying, and the sister of the young man who was stabbed. The mother says, “Dear Catherine, my youngest son has been mugged twice in three months. What are you doing about it?” We feel the frustration, the anger and the tragedy of it. Please, we must do something much more than just put in place programmes and strategies. We must look at the £1 billion taken away and the £1 million being given back. It just does not add up.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I know that constituency colleagues—constituency MPs—will be at the forefront of having to deal with the effects not just of the immediate family of those affected, but of the wider community. I do understand that. It is why I always say that the most important part of my role is meeting the families of victims. It seems to me that every time we meet across the House and every time we meet the victims, we learn more about the complexity of the causes and what we can do to help. I personally have benefited from the meetings that I have had in informing our work.

Resourcing is an issue that Opposition Members raise continuously, and I understand why, but we cannot escape the fact that the key driver of serious violence is the drugs market, and it is the serious organised crime gangs that are driving this. That is why our national efforts through the National Crime Agency are so critical.

The hon. Lady will also welcome the fact that the Mayor of London has set up the serious violence taskforce with the 300 dedicated officers who will go to hotspot areas. If there are issues with operational matters on the ground, I please ask her to raise them with him, because just as I benefit from hearing from colleagues across the House, I am sure that he too benefits from hearing from constituency MPs.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change)

Here we are again after a weekend of shocking violence. My heart goes out to the families, friends and communities affected by these tragedies. Clearly, we must do better. What has clearly echoed across the Chamber is that this is about prevention. In her statement, the Minister mentioned the public health approach. Does she agree that we need a lot more training for the trauma-informed intervention in education, in healthcare, in prisons, in the police and in youth services?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I think that that is right. Let me give an example of some of the actions that have not been mentioned today already. We are acting ahead of the response to the public health consultation with a rolling programme of engagement events for all relevant agencies and bodies, the police and so on across the country to help them understand how they can share data better. Stephen Pound mentioned speaking to an A&E consultant. Sharing that data on an anonymised basis can help the police to target streets, areas and wards that may have a particular problem or be a hotspot. We are very much acting on the basis of spreading advice and best practice across the country, before looking at what further steps we need to take regarding the public health duty that we have consulted on.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

In the answers today—and in the absence of the Home Secretary—the Government look aloof and simply as though they are not taking a national crisis seriously enough. Why is the Home Office still withholding tens of millions of pounds from the Met that its own advisers on the English Cities Fund said London requires for major demonstrations, sports events and visits of foreign dignitaries? When will that money come through to fund the extra thousands of police officers that London desperately needs?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I have the advantage of my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister next to me, who informs me that the Met has already received emergency grants in that regard. I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the details of those emergency grants.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

The west midlands is just as important as London, and over the last 10 years we have lost about 3,000 policemen. Logically, we cannot expect the same level of service; crime will go up. Over the last weeks in Coventry specifically, there have been stabbings—one fatal and one very serious. The police in Coventry are firefighting, and I have raised this issue many times. It is no good the Minister going through a list of all sorts of initiatives. The Government have to reassure the people out there because that is their duty, and the only way they are going to reassure people is with adequate policing. It is fundamental for the Government to protect their people, but they are not doing that at the moment.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to learn that his chief constable is one of the chief constables the Home Secretary meets regularly to discuss their approach to serious violence. West Midlands police is also one of the forces receiving extra money for surge policing through the £100 million spring statement money. I am pleased that the chief constable is setting up his own violence reduction unit; when I say “his own”, I mean that he is leading that work in the west midlands. We expect to see the results of that unit soon.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions)

Last week we brought to Parliament the concerns of the 100-year-old community of Slade Road—a once fine community with Victorian houses and people who have lived in them for successive generations that is now wracked with crime. Fear stalks the streets and local people are angry about what has happened to the community in which they were born and brought up. Is the Minister seriously suggesting that there is no link whatever between the loss of 2,100 police officers in the west midlands—and 21,000 nationwide—and rapidly rising crime? Will she agree to meet local residents, the police, the local authority and me to discuss an action plan to restore peace to the streets of Slade Road?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Gentleman brought to life in this Chamber the impact of antisocial behaviour and crime on Slade Road in his constituency in his Adjournment debate last week. At the risk of repeating my answer to the previous question, the chief constable of West Midlands police is one of the chiefs that the Home Secretary meets regularly to share best practice and to hold to account for serious violence in their local areas. The chief constable is in the process of setting up the violence reduction unit in the west midlands, and we expect to see the results of that unit very soon. The hon. Gentleman will also know that West Mids is one of the constabularies that has received money through the extra £100 million in the spring statement. I would, of course, be delighted to meet him and his constituents.