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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Blunkett vows to curb gun crime
David Blunkett
Blunkett: Pushing on with ID cards
David Blunkett has promised tough action to tackle gun crime in the wake of the murder of jeweller Marian Bates.

The home secretary used his keynote speech to the last day of the Labour conference in Bournemouth to pay tribute to Mrs Bates.

She was gunned down during a robbery at her Nottinghamshire shop on Tuesday while trying to protect her daughter.

Mr Blunkett pledged support to the police in the battle against gun crime saying: "My heart goes out to her family.

"I want the experience of the Metropolitan Police in London with Operation Trident - dealing with gang warfare, guns and drugs - to be spread across the country.

"If we can do that, I think we can take these people on and beat them."

UN routes

Earlier he insisted that plans to speed up the removal of failed asylum seekers did not mean the government was made up of "horrible, evil people".

Marian Bates died saving her daughter during a robbery

The home secretary said he wanted a "balanced approach" to asylum seekers, saying a UN scheme to admit genuine refugees would be implemented from next month.

During his speech earlier this week, Tony Blair pledged to tackle "judicial interference" in the process removing failed asylum seekers from the UK.

Mr Blunkett said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Why are we doing this? We are not doing this because we are horrible evil people.

"I wouldn't be offering a record number of work permits for people who come here and work and reside legally.

"I want a balanced approach and the reason I want it is because that's the only way we'll get people to warmly welcome those coming into the country.

"We will reduce fear, insecurity and fear of difference and that way we can see off the BNP."

'Discussions'

On identity cards Mr Blunkett said there were still on-going discussions within the cabinet.

It is vital that we make the best use of today's record number of police officers
David Blunkett

He said colleagues were raising "perfectly legitimate questions" relating to cost, practicality and civil liberties, and those issues still had to be worked through by a cabinet committee before coming back before senior ministers.

"If I can convince people that the technology, the civil liberties, the financial elements are all in place I hope we can get agreement."

On policing, the home secretary told delegates there were now 136,386 officers in England and Wales - up 4,118 since last December.

Recruitment has outpaced the home secretary's target of 130,000 police officers by March 2003 and 132,500 by 2004.

But the number of black and Asian recruits is not increasing as fast as the overall figure.

Those figures did not mean the job was done though, according to Marian Bates' daughter Naomi, who told a press conference that ministers should "put their money where their mouth is" over gun crime.

Mrs Bates' other daughter Xanthe said that in the past "there was a bobby on this street. He would come in and have a cup of tea with us" - but now they hardly saw an officer from week to week.

Beat officers
The public want to see more police on the beat
Xanthe added: "A policeman is a deterrent. That deterrent has gone."

Naomi said her mother had said she had no longer felt safe going out in Nottingham at night, but "I don't think she expected to be murdered in her own shop".

Mrs Bates leapt in front of her daughter as one of the two young criminals aimed a handgun at the 34-year-old and demanded gems from the family shop. Mrs Bates's husband of 42 years, who is 64, suffered head injuries in the struggle.

Mr Bates said of his wife: "She was a brave woman, not at all foolhardy. She was protecting her daughter, like every mother."

As the attackers ran off an Asian van driver parked close to the jewellery shop ran into the road in an attempt to stop them, and a pedestrian later tried to pull one of the attackers to the ground as they drove past him.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The perception that many have is that crime is getting worse"



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