Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has called for extra government support for Lancashire Police to tackle 'county lines' gangs exploiting children to peddle drugs.

The Conservative backbencher raised the issue at Westminster during Home Office Questions.

In the House of Commons, Mr Higginbotham told Home Secretary James Cleverly: "In Burnley and right across Lancashire, county lines continue to be a problem with organised groups peddling drugs, exploiting young people, with no regard for the harm they’re doing, not just for the community but the young people they’re exploiting too.

"Now Lancashire Police are making really good inroads with an enhanced road policing unit and with neighbourhood taskforces.

"But could you set out what more the Lancashire Constabulary can do to tackle county lines and bring order back to our streets?”

Mr Cleverly said: “I thank you for highlighting this vile type of criminality targeting the young and the most vulnerable.

"As part of our fight against county lines we’re investing up to £145 million in our county lines programme.

"Since the county lines programme was launched in 2019, police activity has resulted in over 4,700 county lines being closed – over 14,800 arrests – and over 7,200 safeguard referrals.

"We will keep our focus on this evil criminality.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Higginbotham said: "Having joined the police on more than one operation, I’m unequivocal in my support for the tough approach they’re taking to dismantle county line drug gangs.

"Not only are these gangs peddling drugs within Burnley and Padiham, which we know causes so much crime and anti-social behaviour but they’re using children in their criminality which is just vile.

"I’ve never shied away from saying that drugs ruin lives, and I’ll do everything within my power to stamp them out.”