Sir Edward DaveyMP Main Page: Sir Edward Davey (Liberal Democrat - Kingston and Surbiton)
Department Debates - View all Sir Edward Davey's debates with the Home Office
(1 year, 9 months ago)Commons Chamber
I welcome the statement over the weekend from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on consulting on measures to remove both illegal and legal harms from the internet, and on the exposure of people, certainly young people, to those harms on the internet. I would welcome any suggestions from either side of the House, and the Home Office, alongside DCMS, will tackle those harms.
I met Google this morning to discuss how it can do more to take down violence-inspiring videos. The level of violence to which my young children are exposed quite early in the day on television, let alone the internet, will come back to haunt us.
In the Home Office we are always open to listening to more demands. After Manchester last year I, as Security Minister, received a demand from Mark Rowley and the head of MI5, and we worked hard at the Treasury to get £50 million of extra money to respond to the operational pressures.
It is not just London. Merseyside MPs saw a spate of murders and gun crime at the start of last year. There is a real pressure that we have to try to address. Of course the Home Office will work with colleagues to see where we can get more out of the resources we have.
We have found more resources. We have put £49 million into the strategy, and we have put more money into some of the broader responses, including local government and community responses. We will work with the Mayor of London, with whom we will discuss what his priorities may or may not be, on which we may or may not agree.
I wish I had more money. We did not come into Government to cut things. There is sometimes a suggestion that we had a choice and we chose not to spend money. We will try to do our best to meet the resources, but burden share is important, and it is the same in other growing areas of crime. We cannot arrest our way out of some of these things. We have to burden share, and we are doing a whole range of things. A new contest will be launched in the next few weeks and, in order to meet the growing scale of the threat, we have to burden share with both the private sector and the public sector on keeping us safe on the ground. That is the scale we face not just here but internationally.
Break in Debate
The hon. Gentleman is always a well-informed and intelligent contributor to these debates, and, not for the first time, I both recognise and respect his view, but I suppose that what I am speaking about is the culture of policing rather than just the extent of it. I was describing a kind of policing that was once taken as read—routine. Policemen understood that their role was largely non-adversarial, with the policeman coming to one’s school, popping into the shop to pick up local information, or seen as a friendly face in the town, village, suburb, shopping parade or estate like the one I once lived in.
I am a great supporter of the police, as my local chief constable will testify, and an admirer of all that they do. I do think, however, that a sensible conversation at the Home Office and more widely in Parliament about the kind of police service that we want to grow, and the culture that prevails in it, is timely. People would be much more comfortable with the idea of police engagement if they perceived the police in the way that they once did.
Therefore, I do not think it is entirely about numbers. I am not saying that this is unrelated to them, but I think the Minister was right when he pointed out—as, to be fair, did the shadow Home Secretary—that it is not wholly about numbers. It may be about resources, but it is not wholly and probably not even mainly about them.
I am coming to that now. Although stop-and-search has become more targeted, with 17% of police stops leading to an arrest in 2017 compared with 9% in 2010, we cannot ignore the fact that, in 2010, there were 13,833 weapons-related arrests, compared with 7,794 in 2017. Fewer people are being found with weapons, and fewer people are being arrested for having or carrying weapons with intent. It is all very well speaking about a more targeted approach, but in terms of the numbers—
I have already said that this debate stretches well beyond party politics. I know that it is always difficult for Liberal Democrats to step outside party politics, but I implore the right hon. Gentleman to raise his game and do so. I do not mean to be unkind; I am simply trying to be helpful.
The important thing is that fewer people are being arrested, and fewer people are therefore being convicted. Because of that, inevitably, more people feel they can get away with carrying a knife or a gun.
Break in Debate
The hon. Lady again makes a very valid point. I do not disagree with her. She is almost certainly right when we are talking about mid-teenagers, late-teenagers and people in their early 20s, but we need to reset the dial and start this education in primary and secondary schools now. I am not suggesting that this is a panacea. I am not even suggesting that it is a quick or easy fix, but it has to be part of a solution and a package of measures that will help to eradicate knife crime in the medium to long term.
There is an organisation in my constituency called KnifeCrimes.Org, which is run by a lady called Ann Oakes-Odger. In the neighbouring constituency, a lady called Caroline Shearer runs another organisation called Only Cowards Carry. These inspirational women each lost a child to a knife crime attack—hugely tragic—but they have harnessed that energy and set up charities that are doing such great good around weapons awareness, particularly in schools. I look to the Minister because these organisations need funding in order to survive. In some cases, that comes via the police and crime commissioners, but I want to see more central funding made available for these organisations, which do such good work at a grassroots level.
I have been on one of the courses. I sat in a school and watched one of the presentations, it was really hard-hitting. Everyone leaves thinking, “Wow.” We were shown on a huge projector what numerous knife wounds look like. We learnt about the impact on families. If I had watched one of those presentations as a seven, eight, nine or 10-year-old, or even in the early stages of secondary school, I would have found it quite compelling.
Too many young people are carrying knives, and we need to understand why that is by getting in early. That is why primary schools are so important. We need to show these young people, as I mentioned to the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), that a knife does not keep them safe; statistically, it makes them far more likely to be the victims of a knife crime attack. We must hammer that message home—not just in schools as part of weapons awareness education, but as part of social media activity and in TV ads like those being run in Scotland. There has to be an overall package of measures to show them how it feels to have a life shattered by a member of their family losing their life through a traumatic weapons attack.
May I gently push the Minister on a couple of things? We need weapons awareness classes in school. We must support the organisations up and down this country that are providing that and support the creation of new ones. I would like to see mandatory weapons awareness sessions as a condition of a conviction for someone caught carrying a knife. It is not acceptable just to give them a caution, a slap on the wrist, and an “Off you go”. We have to do more by sending them on a mandatory course. Yes, there is a cost to that, but I think it would pay dividends in terms of the number of people for whom we could break the cycle. I also encourage the Minister to push for closer working between local police forces and the Metropolitan police to tackle the growing issue of county lines, which we desperately need to resolve.
Finally, probably the most important message that I can impart to the Minister is this: please, please can we treat the children and young people who are caught up and groomed, victimised and intimidated into county lines activity and drug dealing as victims, not as criminals?
I have been working with mums whose children are or have been involved in county lines, and one of the messages they are very keen to get across is that this could happen to anybody, whoever they are. A police officer who spoke to me the other week told me about how the child of one of their colleagues had got involved. I want us to be very aware of the fact that this could genuinely happen to anybody, and we should not stereotype any group of people we think may be involved.