Monday 4 March 2019 / 3:47 PM Louise Haigh

Tories clueless on own strategy to tackle violence – Louise Haigh

Health Secretary inadvertently denounces his own Government’s policy to tackle violent crime in an effort to launch a cynical attack on the Mayor of London.

Responding, Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister, said:

“It is disturbing that the Health Secretary doesn’t seem to be aware of his own Government’s strategy to tackle violent crime.

“Rather than taking real action to address the national knife crime epidemic that has arisen on its watch, the Government’s own strategy has been revealed to be nothing more than warm words.

“How can the Tory government possibly be serious about taking a public health approach when the Health Secretary doesn’t even know about it?

“Labour advocates real investment in community safety and a public health approach to knife crime.”


Notes to editors:

  • The Health Secretary today attacked the Mayor of London for adopting a public health approach to tackling violent crime.

Matt Hancock: It’s a crime issue. It’s a crime issue. I mean you know, people stabbing people first and foremost is a crime and you’ve got to hold the perpetrators to justice and accountable. A public health issue…if you classify this as a public health issue…

Q: Sadiq Khan says it’s a public health issue, the London mayor says it’s a public health issue.

Matt Hancock: If you try to say that it’s a public health issue that implies that it’s nobody’s fault. The criminals who are murderers, it’s their fault. And that’s got to be the starting point. And now, we should take a broad approach to how we tackle it, looking at all of the different causes and actions we can take and Sadiq Khan himself could take some…could do with taking some actions here in London.

Matt Hancock, LBC, 4 February 2019

MH: I think that there’s an awful lot that Sadiq Khan needs to be doing on knife crime here in London to keep people safe and we should see it first and foremost as a matter of criminality.

Q: This public health issue is almost like a cop-out lastly?

MH: Well I wouldn’t want it to be a cop-out. If he means….if he uses that language meaning we’ve got to take a broad approach to how we tackle it, fine. But actually, I think if you try to say that knife crime is a public health issue, it implies that there aren’t individuals who are personally responsible for these terrible crimes and you’ve got to start from the point of the perpetrator needing to be brought to justice.

Matt Hancock, LBC, 4 February 2019


  • However, the Home Office noted that they were consulting on adopting a public health approach to tackling violence in the press this morning.


“The Home Office said it set out a range of actions to tackle violent crime in October including a £200 million youth endowment fund; consulting on a on new legal duty to underpin a public health approach to tackling serious violence, and an independent review of drug misuse.”

Tele, 4 March 2019, 


  • And Sajid Javid mentioned the Government’s public health approach in a Parliamentary debate about serious violence last month.


“Secondly, we are taking a multi-agency public health approach to tackling violent crime.”

Sajid Javid, Hansard, 18 February 2019, c. 1276, 


“As part of our public health package, I launched an independent drugs misuse review to investigate how the trade is fuelling serious violence.”

Sajid Javid, Hansard, 18 February 2019, c. 1278, 


  • And in October last year, this approach was one of the main announcements on new measures to tackle violent crime.


“Consultation on new legal duty to underpin a ‘public health’ approach to tackling serious violence”

Home Office press release, 2 October 2018, 


  • And last September, Victoria Atkins claimed it was Sadiq Khan who copied the Government in adopting a public health approach.


Q:                                            Are you going along the same line as Sadiq Khan then, the London mayor, when he talked about gang violence and knife crime as being a public health problem in London, is this a similar situation across the country with county lines?

Victoria Atkins:                  I’m delighted that Sadiq is mirroring the government’s approach to tackling serious violence, we set out our strategy in April, we’ve made it absolutely clear this is cross party, party politics doesn’t matter here, I’m delighted that the Mayor of London along with other MPs and local government officials across the country, across parties are coming together in the serious violence taskforce chaired by the home secretary to tackle this problem.

Q:                                           So you accept that county lines is at least in part a public health problem as well as being a criminal law problem?

Victoria Atkins:                  Very much, we want to stop this harm from happening in the first place, so we’ve committed £22million to an early intervention fund, whereby local government, police and crime commissioners, police across the country are all working together to try and intervene on these young people before they get dragged in to these gangs and commit these terrible crimes. But this is for all of us to get together to do and we are doing it, I mean the serious violence task force has been meeting since we launched the strategy in April, there’s huge pieces of work going on looking at for example excluded children, looking at supporting charities like Redthread in accident and emergency departments so we get to those children when they’re in the A&E and hopefully they’re susceptible to help. This is very much about joined up thinking and we’re delighted that the Mayor and others are joining us on this.

Victoria Atkins, Today, 21 September 2018


  • In fact, the Mayor of London had already announced a public health approach to tackling violence a few days earlier.

Mayor of London, 19 September 2018,


  • And in its Serious Violence Strategy last April, the Home Office was clear that there “are strong links between policing and public health”.

Home Office, Serious Violence Strategy, 9 April 2018, p71,