The additional extracts were not in my copy of the statement either. Labour supports measures to ban zombie-style knives and machetes. Knife crime devastates lives and rips families apart, but this is too little, too late—a smokescreen to distract from the Government’s appalling record. Knife crime has risen across the country by 70% since 2015, and the whole country is affected. Since 2011, knife crime has doubled in Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire. It has trebled in Norfolk, Essex and Sussex, and in Surrey it has risen tenfold. There are serious problems in Swindon, Milton Keynes and Rochdale. With a serious violence strategy that is five years out of date, the Government do not have a plan to tackle knife crime in our towns and suburbs.
The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 was hailed by the then Prime Minister as the big answer to what is a national crisis, but it has not worked. A year and a half ago, I called on the Government to act on getting these knives off the streets entirely, but they have done nothing. Why the delay? We have heard it all before. In 2016, the former Home Secretary pledged a ban on zombie knives. In 2017, the next former Home Secretary pledged another ban on zombie knives. In 2018, the then new Home Secretary pledged another ban. In 2021, the Home Secretary after that promised yet again to ban zombie knives. Now, déjà vu, we are promised yet another ban. The Home Secretary says today that it cannot go on, but it has and it is; it is going on and on. Who on earth do they think has been in power for the past 13 years?
This is personal for me. Just last month, I sat with a grieving mother in Rochdale, traumatised after the murder of her little boy. I have seen the destruction that knife crime causes with my own eyes, and it is getting worse. Total knife crime is up 11% in the past year alone. Knife-enabled rape and knife-enabled threats to kill are at record levels. Knife possession is up 15% on pre-pandemic levels. The Minister said that violent crime is down, but serious violence is up, not down, and that should be his priority.
The proposed ban does not go far enough. It is already an offence to sell knives to under-18s, but the Government have utterly failed to enforce the law. Just last year, a boy was murdered in east London with a knife bought with fake ID. After the Minister’s changes in the consultation, will I still be able to buy a 49-cm sword online? Only swords over 50 cm are banned. Will I still be able to purchase the 40-inch samurai sword for £100 or the 16-inch “Deluxe Rambo First Blood” knife for £40 that I found this morning on knifewarehouse.co.uk? The consultation does not seem to include any of those.
The Government are trying to legislate their way out of a problem caused by their cuts to police—cuts that have left us with 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police and police community support officers on our streets since 2015—and cuts to everywhere from mental health to youth work. Does the Minister think it is okay that adults can buy dangerous banned knives on online marketplaces that come from abroad? There is nothing today to tackle that, and the online harms Bill will not stop that. Does he think that tech execs should be responsible for what is on their sites? Apparently not, because his party opposed Labour’s plans to make technology execs criminally responsible when they consistently fail to remove illegal content. Does he think it is acceptable that knife seizures have collapsed at the border? Why is the serious violence strategy now five years out of date? Why are the Government failing to prevent young people from being drawn into crime in the first place, opposing Labour’s plans to outlaw the criminal exploitation of children and cutting a billion pounds from our youth services?
Is it any wonder that the public have lost faith in this tired Government, who are weak on crime and weak on the causes of crime? The next Labour Government will take action, making it our mission to halve knife crime within 10 years. Labour is the party of law and order now.