On Monday the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali asked the Home Secretary “What steps he is taking to tackle the rising level of knife crime” Because Sajid Javid was too busy campaigning to become the next Prime Minister to answer the question, one of his junior Ministers, Victoria Atkins responded with the following statement:
“Just some of the actions we are taking to tackle knife crime include: strengthening the law through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019; establishing the national county lines co-ordination centre; consulting on a new duty to support a multi-agency public health approach; launching the £100 million serious violence fund in the spring statement; and providing new lesson plans to schools as part of our #knifefree campaign. We take careful note of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s recent comments about knife crime levelling off, and I am sure we all support the police’s efforts to tackle this.”
All of these are of course valid responses but they are not sufficient and indeed Rushanara followed the question up with “I thank the Minister for her answer, but there were 18,000 assaults and 17,000 robberies involving a knife or a sharp object in the year ending 2018. The Government have cut police officer numbers by 21,000, and two weeks ago there was a murder in Tower Hamlets due to a knife attack. Does she agree that the Home Secretary is not fit to be the next Prime Minister, considering that he has lost control of law and order in his Department?”
The reality is that Atkins has been in her role since November 2017 and Javid has been Home Secretary since April 2018. Previous to her role as an MP Atkins was a Barrister and she even stood as PCC in 2012 so she has had many years to consider how the Government works and the severe impact not only of police cuts but as an MP she has seen the impact on education and youth provision made by her Government. Although it is only one example, this morning it has been revealed that one school in East London is applying to Children in Need for funds to retain the pastoral care for their children. Whilst that is not related directly to knife crime, it is clear that it does relate to the way in which communities are struggling to retain support for vulnerable people and it is vulnerable people that are being focused on by criminals for matters such as County Lines. Now of course a national coordination centre is a vital way of coordinating the policing of county line type issues, but prevention such as through pastoral support in schools and youth agencies is a much more important focus. To claim that “the Government, working with the police, local authorities, the medical profession and educationalists, are doing everything we can” is deeply troubling from someone who should know much better and indeed is a Minister for the Government. We need the Government to admit it needs to do a great deal more, and of course they can point to the positive things they are doing, but given that the next Prime Minister is promising to release £9.6bn to people including senior police officers who earn over £50,000 a year as a tax relief arrangement, to limit the extra spending for police forces and their partners to deal with serious violence to 1% of this promised tax relief shows how little understanding this political party have regarding issues that effect the whole of our society.