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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Blunkett told of 'Valleys drug menace'
Delegation of Welsh MPs
Welsh MPs meet with David Blunkett in Blackpool
UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has been urged to tackle the growing menace of drugs in the south Wales Valleys on Tuesday.

A delegation of the region's MPs highlighted the problem at the Labour Party conference at Blackpool.

Their high-level meeting comes amid a rise in the use of drugs - heroin and cocaine - and related deaths in the region.

Drug Facts
Heroin arrests up by 80%
Big rise in drug-related deaths
1.6bn spent in UK on drug issues
200,000 problem drug users in England and Wales
That is, 3% of all drug users
MPs have warned that the valleys are being flooded with cheap hard drugs by gangs from Bristol and Birmingham, with associated violent crime and gun culture.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said: "The real problem is that it's all coming in to the Valleys very easily from Bristol.

"It's almost like Tesco opening a new store in the valleys - that's what the drug dealers from Bristol are doing in the valleys."

Three Welsh police forces - South Wales, Gwent and Dyfed-Powys - have joined forces to mount Operation Tarian - a crackdown using armed officers to stem the narcotics flow across Offa's Dyke.

Chris Bryant MP
Chris Bryant: Drugs coming in easily

Heroin arrests rocketed by 80% in the year to April, according to South Wales Police.

Seizures of heroin in the four months to August equalled those in all of 2000.

Crack cocaine seizures in the same period equalled those in 1999 and 2000 together.

The south Wales region has the cheapest heroin and cocaine in the UK, with registered drug users increased by 14% in the six months to August.

But there was a 100% increase in Merthyr Tydfil alone and 47% in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Armed response

Police officers have already warned that communities are being "ripped apart" by hard drugs - and could be destroyed completely if heroin and cocaine use is not cut out.

Labour's Rhondda MP Chris Bryant led the delegation at the conference in Blackpool on Tuesday.

While they are unlikely to win a policy shift, the group's aim is to press for a coordinated approach between Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

Houses in the south Wales Valleys
The region has the cheapest heroin in the UK

That is a move already advocated by the Welsh Office.

"It may be that David Blunkett doesn't realise problems that have been in existence in big cities for some time are now problems in the valleys of Wales as well," Mr Bryant said.

But Mr Bryant is no stranger to the cause. In May, he challenged Tony Blair to tackle the problem; in June, he called a local summit on the issue.

In a June cabinet re-shuffle, Welsh Assembly Finance Minister Edwina Hart took on responsibility for tackling drug and alcohol abuse.

She has already told south Wales' police chiefs the the assembly will bankroll their drugs crackdown if the UK Government does not stump up cash.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant
"It's almost like Tesco opening a new store in the Valleys, that's what the drug dealers from Bristol are doing."
BBC Wales's David Cornock
"Politicians say drugs are the number one social problem of the Valleys."

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29 Aug 02 | Wales
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