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Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the processes of procuring illegal firearms in England; and what plans he has to tackle these processes. [108892]

A review of stolen firearms statistics is currently m hand to determine the size of the problem and identify what scope there is to reduce the number of legal weapons becoming available to criminals. A project to research the market for the supply of firearms for criminal use and the sources for procurement is planned for later this year.Much is being done across the board to reduce gun crime and the availability of firearms. The National Criminal Intelligence Service has expanded its firearms section and has a key role in pulling together, acting on and sharing good quality intelligence, particularly on the supply and movement of firearms. This is also likely to assist in the current research project in terms of tracking stolen weapons.The setting up of the National Firearms Forensic Intelligence Database, supported by £1.4 million funding from the Home Office, will facilitate the linking of firearms offences through the automatic correlation of ballistics tests. This will contribute to a strategic overview of national firearm trends which will be available to all forces. Data is already being recorded on the information database in respect of cases submitted to the Forensic Science Service after 1 April 2003; the Integrated Ballistic Information System is currently being validated.