The Government have taken a dual approach to tackling serious violence, combining tough enforcement with programmes steering people away from crime. Since 2019, we have invested £170 million in the areas most affected by violence to boost the police response, and we have invested a further £170 million in developing violence reduction units to tackle the root causes of violent crime. These programmes together have been assessed as preventing 49,000 violent offences in their first two years.
Harrow is, generally speaking, a safe borough in which to live, but we have seen an 18% increase in knife crime this year. There were 41 major incidents last month, and only last week there was a major incident in which three people were stabbed and put into hospital. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is needed is not just extra police officers, but apprehending people who carry knives, punishing them by taking them to court and imprisoning them so they cannot cause damage to other people?
I agree with my hon. Friend that a robust police response is essential, as is the courts making robust use of the two-strikes rule requiring a mandatory prison sentence on a second conviction for possessing a bladed article. Those are very important, and I am happy to look with him at how they are working and whether they need to be pushed a bit further. I am sorry to hear about the knife crime statistics in Harrow. Nationwide, knife crime, or knife-enabled crime, is down about 9% compared with pre-pandemic levels. If my hon. Friend feels that more needs to be done in his area, I would be happy to discuss it with him.
The two-strikes strategy is not something we have done in Milton Keynes. The Home Secretary has heard about Operation Deter, under which people caught with a knife in Milton Keynes will spend time behind bars. Along with the right legislation and the right policing strategies, such as Operation Deter, we need to work with local communities. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the Knife Angel to Milton Keynes as we work with communities to raise awareness of the consequences of knife crime?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend; the Knife Angel and other organisations do fantastic work, and I strongly commend them. It is exactly that kind of initiative that some of the funding streams I mentioned earlier are designed to support.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched film from a security camera in Stockton showing two men; one used a chainsaw to cut through the door of a house while the other set about smashing all the windows in a bid to get to the resident. Who knows what would have happened if they had got in? That is another example of terrifying attacks by dangerous, organised criminals determined to silence our communities as they fight to control their illegal drug businesses on Teesside. The Government love to spin a story about police recruitment, but will Cleveland police ever get back the hundreds of police officers cut since 2010 and the resources needed to protect our communities and catch these criminals?
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that the kind of crime he describes is despicable and that those who commit it should be pursued, prosecuted and imprisoned. I met the excellent police and crime commissioner for Cleveland, Steve Turner, just a short time ago—
I also met the chief constable, Mark Webster, just a week ago. The hon. Gentleman mentions resources, and of course Cleveland this year is receiving an extra £7.8 million compared with what it received last year and it has been allocated 239 extra officers as part of the police uplift programme, 197 of whom are already in post.
In September, I asked a then Home Office Minister why it is still legal for anyone aged 18 and over to walk into a shop and buy a machete. I was told, because the incidence of the use of machetes on our streets is increasing, that the serious weapons review is looking at this matter. Will this Minister tell us when that will be concluded and when the Government will act to ban the sale of machetes in this country?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question and I have a lot of sympathy for the point he is making. In the two or three weeks since I have been in this position, I have met the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner McNulty, who has particular expertise in this area and is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on this topic. He has made a number of interesting proposals that are consistent with what the right hon. Gentleman just suggested. I am studying those carefully and sympathetically, and hope to have more to say on this topic in the near future.