Defence secretary Gavin Williamson says military 'ready to respond' to knife crime crisis

Offer comes as police chief admits 'we just don’t have enough officers'

Jon Sharman
Wednesday 06 March 2019 10:37
Gavin Williamson: Military ready to respond to Britain's knife crime

The UK armed forces “stand ready” to intervene in the knife crime epidemic, the defence secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said military personnel “would always be ready to respond” to calls for help while the Ministry of Defence “always stands ready to help any government department”.

No request has yet been made, Mr Williamson said during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday night.

He added: “I know that the home secretary is looking very closely at how he can ensure that everything is done to tackle this problem at the moment.”

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, had said she would be willing to bring in troops to support her officers as they battle a spate of stabbings.

The knife crime epidemic has sparked a furious debate about police numbers with Ms Dick clashing with Theresa May, who previously said a rise in violent crime was not directly correlated with falling staff levels.

The number of police officers in England and Wales has dropped by more than 20,000 since 2010.

On Wednesday the head of the National Police Chiefs Council said “we just don’t have enough officers”, and called for the government to put “emergency money” into policing that forces could use to pay overtime and juggle officers between themselves to target problem areas.

Ms May should also appoint a “senior minister holding all departments and agencies to account” for the crisis, Sarah Thornton said.

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During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme on Wednesday, she added that while ministers’ serious violence strategy contained “all the right things”, it was not “being properly funded and it doesn’t appear as if anyone’s being held to account for delivering [it]”.

Chief Constable Thornton and other top officers were due to meet Sajid Javid on Wednesday for talks.