Anika Bourley - Parliamentary Correspondent

The threat of piracy at sea is growing but the government "does not even know the scale of the problem", according to a damning parliamentary report.

The House of Commons Transport Committee warned the government it appeared to "be in the dark" about pirate attacks near Iraq, despite British warships being nearby.

The committee chairman, Gwyneth Dunwoody MP said: "The government needs to be at the forefront of the fight to destroy piracy.

"It must demonstrate that international co-operation is succeeding in making piracy a thing of the past. That is woefully lacking - far from destroying piracy, it is growing. That is failure by any measure."

She urged the government to show a "new level" of commitment to tackling the problem as figures show piracy has increased by 168% in the past decade, reaching 3,583 attacks worldwide.

The report said last year there were 10 attacks off the coast of Iraq by well-armed gangs.

In 2005, piracy resulted in more than 150 injuries and assaults and more than 650 crew members were taken hostage or kidnapped.

A joint statement from the Department for Transport and the Foreign Office said: "The government agrees that piracy is an appalling crime and that is why we have been at the forefront of initiatives to combat it.

"The UK has assisted many countries worldwide by funding anti-piracy projects and by working together with the International Maritime Organisation and G8 partners to combat the threat of piracy."