Debates between Sir Edward Davey and Will Quince

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1 Tue 22nd May 2018 Serious Violence Strategy
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Serious Violence Strategy
Debate between Sir Edward Davey and Will Quince
Tuesday 22nd May 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Will Quince Portrait Will Quince - Hansard
22 May 2018, 4:43 p.m.

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?

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard
22 May 2018, 4:46 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince). The House is indebted to him for a speech that showed great understanding of the problem of county lines and how this new way of distributing drugs is harming individuals, families and communities; and also for the fact that he had some very constructive proposals to put to the Minister. I support him in that. I dare say that he might not like this comment, but it almost sounded like a Liberal speech. He was right to focus on county lines. I think that the strategy is very good on that problem. His point about co-ordination between different police forces is really important.

I will be very interested to see whether the Minister has any comments to make about the drug dealing telecommunications restriction orders that are now being rolled out. In his opening remarks, the Security Minister talked about some initial signs of real success in that they are seriously disrupting county lines. We must hope that they will continue to do so. I hope that Ministers will be able to report to the House about the success of those orders as we go forward in tackling county lines.

I wanted to start my remarks by remembering the victims of the terrorism in Manchester last year, as spokespeople for the other parties have done. I very much agree that those victims should be in our thoughts today, not least as we discuss this particularly important issue. We saw the tragedy of the families who were bereaved—the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. That must be in our thoughts. The fact that the people of Manchester responded so powerfully together in their unity is something that we should celebrate.

I also want to talk about real people in the rest of my speech. In my constituency we have had people suffering from the effects of knife crime. I have been particularly engaged with a family who lost a son in June last year. Derick Mulondo was in his 30s. He was stabbed by a former partner. He was one of those people who everyone loved. He was a community activist. Young people would see him as a leader. He would go and organise football matches at the local park. After he was taken from us, the young people would go to his mother’s door and say, “Now Derick’s gone, who do we look to?”, so we doubly suffered as a result of that awful murder.

His mother, Sophie Kafeero, is one of the most courageous people I have ever met. She is still suffering, and she goes to her son’s grave very regularly to talk to him. She, in her grief, has had support from Derick’s friends to set up a campaign called “Drop a Knife, Save a Life”. That campaign is in its infancy, and I hope that in due course it will make an application to the Government’s community fund, because it could do a lot of good work with other organisations such as Oxygen in my constituency, which is also tackling the problems of knife crime.

We must learn from these victims and listen to them—listen to their pain and their strength, and listen to what they are saying about what needs to be done. The Government have done some good things to support community initiatives, but I urge them to go further, because I am afraid there are too many mothers like Sophie.

The strategy has many positive aspects. I will come to some criticisms in a minute, but the positive aspects are worth focusing on. Some of the analysis in it, written by good Home Office officials and with lots of evidence, is definitely worth reading and debating, because we need our policies to be evidence-based. I wish more of the Government’s policies were evidence-based. Let us hope that this one will be.

The fact that the strategy puts prevention high up the agenda was welcomed across the House and the country. There are some issues with putting money behind that, but ensuring that prevention is a priority is important. A few Members have touched on the international aspects we are facing, which we need to say more about, and I will come on to that.

Some of the Government’s initiatives deal with new aspects of the debate, including not just county lines but social media and its link to drug distribution, and the glamorisation of drugs; young people are told about the money they can make, but they are not told that they could lose their lives. Social media is having such a big impact. I think the Government are taking that seriously. I may question their judgment and their decisions at times, but I do not question their motives on this at all.

As other Members have said, two big things are missing from the strategy. The first—I am sorry to say this to the Minister, but I have to—is the lack of acknowledgment of the impact of police cuts. If we look at the evidence printed in The Guardian, which was not published and which the former Home Secretary said she had not read, it is absolutely clear that the cuts were likely to have been a contributory factor to the rise in violent crime.

The other key problem, linked to that, is resources. This puts a challenge to the Government. They talk about the need for prevention, but a lot of the activities in local government, the health service, schools and the police that were focused on preventing crime in the first place have been cut, and the Government’s welcome extra funding mentioned in the strategy does not come close to replacing the money that has been lost.

Let me return to some of the policies, which are important. The strategy refers to the

“large potential benefit to preventative intervention”.

It talks eloquently about the need for both universal preventive interventions and targeted interventions, and that is worth focusing on. The strategy talks about looking at young people and families where there is a combination of high-risk factors, and where it is very beneficial for the local authority, Government and police to come together to intervene really early. We hear about early intervention on so many subjects, but here it is about saving lives. The Government should talk more about that and then put the money behind it. Other Members have touched on the importance of helping children who have had chaotic lives, whose health and education have been affected and who are so vulnerable to the drug gangs that prey on them. Unless we intervene to help them, we are setting the whole of society up for failure.