HC Deb 23 February 2004 vol 418 cc17-8
15. Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab)

What measures he is taking to support communities in the fight against gun crime. [155758]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department(Caroline Flint)

We need effective legislation and enforcement. but we also need to harness the support of local communities in tackling gun crime. That is why we have provided support for the Disarm Trust to work directly with affected communities and community groups, and have allocated £1.2 million of recovered assets money to support community action in the most affected areas. In January this year, we held a very good conference in Birmingham, involving more than 200 community organisations, individuals and young people, to identify better ways to work together in the future and to stimulate more ideas for action.

Mrs. Cryer

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful reply. Does she appreciate that in my constituency, during a period of about a year, two young Keighley men were killed and a violent street battle took place in an otherwise peaceful and law-abiding area? The common thread in all three incidents was that they related to turf wars between drug dealers, firearms were used and the police had great difficulty in bringing prosecutions owing to the intimidation of potential witnesses. How can we move forward?

Caroline Flint

I am aware of the incident to which my hon. Friend refers. She is right to draw attention to the links between gun crime and other organised criminal activities, especially drugs. The serious organised crime agency will look into such issues and that will be helpful for the future, but we also have to ensure that there are operations on the ground to deal with them effectively. The Bradford district is taking a proactive approach to gun crime and over the next six weeks it will launch a media campaign to make local people aware of what it is doing and to encourage them to come forward with information. We are seriously looking into how we can further improve witness protection nationally. We need to attend to that very serious issue.