Shipley MP Chris Leslie, the newly appointed Government Fire Safety Minister, said today he wants to curb arson which is devastating communities.

He was aiming to commission a report looking into arson attacks across the country - up 40 per cent in the last ten years - and cited Bradford as a prime example of how fires debilitate communities.

In Bradford in 2001 there were 1,953 deliberately-started car fires and 248 house fires. So far this year there have been 1,135 car fires and 105 house fires.

Mr Leslie said: "Under-standing what motivates the arsonist is vital to produce successful strategies to fight this growing menace."

Research by Professor David Canter at Liverpool University draws a link between arson and youth disorder and says the damage to communities can be devastating.

Failure to deal with instances of car fires particularly has hampered attempts to regenerate areas, the research says.

Mr Leslie said: "Bradford is a classic example of how communities suffer. People from poor districts are more likely to be victims of arson and you get cases where there are areas targeted over and over again - people go joy-riding and dump the cars and set them alight.

"You think that the fire brigade go out because there have been accidents but the sad thing is that a lot of fires are started deliberately.

"If we can reduce those then that will have a dramatic effect."

He said the Government is taking the problem seriously.

"The new research is part of an ongoing campaign aimed at developing ways of preventing arson and also dealing with its consequences more quickly," he said.

"We are looking at how the police and fire service can work more closely, and also at punishment for offenders."

According to national statistics about 90 people die a year from fires and in the year 2000 2,500 people were found guilty or cautioned for arson offences - half of them boys under 18.