In this month's column Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris discusses the importance of having mandatory prison sentences for those caught with knives.
The part of my job that I enjoy the most will always be when I am able to get things done locally to help people with their problems or to support a local community organisation.
However, it has also been a great experience to have helped change in a Bill (a draft law) going through Parliament, so that we can make our streets safer.
When Christina Edkins was fatally stabbed last year on the bus to Leasowes School in Halesowen, it was a big shock to our community, as well as an unimaginable loss to her family and many friends.
I met with Christina’s father and her uncle to talk about what help their family would like.
They told me that what they wanted more than anything else was for the law to be tightened up and for stronger sentences to be given to people caught carrying illegal knives.
I raised these points at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons and in several meetings with ministers and civil servants.
Campaigning for mandatory prison sentences, I met with MPs from other parts of the country that had been hit by knife crime to see how we could get the changes needed to help remove these weapons from our streets.
I was delighted when one of those colleagues invited me to co-sponsor an amendment to the Government’s Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, to introduce mandatory prison sentences for people convicted of a knife crime for a second time.
I was even more delighted when it passed through the House of Commons, meaning that as long as the Bill is now passed by the House of Lords it will become law.
There were a few MPs who argued that it was wrong to have these mandatory prison sentences because many teenagers feel that they need to carry knives for protection.
Unlike the United States, we do not accept people carrying guns for “self-protection” and I do not believe it should be any different for knives, which are responsible for three times as many murders in Britain each year than firearms.
The new law will send out the clear message that carrying an illegal knife is just as unacceptable as carrying a gun – and anyone convicted will be punished appropriately. This will go a long way towards reducing the number of weapons on our streets.
If that happens then it will be an achievement that I will look back on with pride, but more importantly it will help to prevent more families from suffering the terrible loss of a loved one