Justice Questions, July 2008

Nick challenges the Justice Secretary on the Government's Youth Crime Action Plan

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): It is not surprising that the Government have failed to deliver an oral statement on the youth crime action plan, as they were still cobbling it together yesterday. We have already had the respect action plan, the youth taskforce action plan, the crime reduction and drugs strategy action plan, the youth alcohol action plan, the violent crime action plan and the fighting violent crime together action plan. When will the Justice Secretary understand that people do not want more last-minute Government action plans, but that what they want is action?

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): That was snappy too, Mr. Speaker. What the public understand is that as a result of the action the Labour Government have taken over the past 11 years, we have become the first Government since the war to see a reduction in crime, rather than an increase. Every Conservative Government since the war presided over an increase in crime, and the last Administration saw a doubling in crime. We have seen a consistent reduction in crime including-according to entirely independent research by Cardiff university into A and E department admissions, and according to the British crime survey that the Conservatives established but that we have enhanced-very significant reductions in violent crime. None of us underestimate the current problem of knife crime in certain areas. That is why we have taken action, as the Home Secretary has done by producing the youth crime action plan, which builds on the shambles of the youth justice system-so-called-that we inherited in 1997.

Nick Herbert: That was 10 years ago.

Mr. Straw: Yes, it was 10 years ago, and the system was an utter shambles, which we have reformed and improved so that youth crime has come down. We have built on that, and we have also taken action in respect of knife crime in eight specific areas.

Nick Herbert: The Government's impact assessment on this plan is also published today. I have a copy with me. It asks what policy options have been considered. Option 1 is:

"Do nothing to tackle youth crime".

Option 2 is:

"Develop a comprehensive and co-ordinated...package of...options".

That is the preferred option, so perhaps that is a start. However, in the last week, three more young people have lost their lives in knife attacks. After a decade in office, all the Justice Secretary can offer is yet another apology and yet another crime plan of recycled announcements and lazy gimmicks. Will he confirm that the Government were still amending the youth crime action plan yesterday?

Mr. Straw: The plan has been printed. It was printed yesterday and, as far as I know, no amendments were made yesterday. Proofreading changes may have been made, but that is in the nature of these things.

The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) seems to be implying that should there ever be a Conservative Government, there will be no knife crime and no violent murders. May I say to him that that is a rash and immature pledge to make? I am deeply sorry about any crimes of violence, as I am about any crimes. What we are seeking to do-by strengthening the way in which the whole criminal justice system works and not least by strengthening the support we give to the police and those dealing with crimes against, and by, youngsters-is to ensure that there are many fewer examples of this kind of crime and that many more of those who perpetrate such crimes are brought to justice.

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15 July 2008

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