Retail Crime Prevention Debate

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Department: Home Office

Retail Crime Prevention

David Hanson Excerpts
Tuesday 5th November 2019

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Home Office
David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:31 a.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered prevention of retail crime.

Welcome to the Chair, Mr Betts, for the final day of activity in this Parliament. I wanted to raise the issue of retail crime today because it is still an important one that the House needs to consider. I shall discuss a number of matters that I hope will give the Minister food for thought but also provoke responses on some of the key issues that hon. Members collectively have raised in the House during the past couple of years.

I am raising retail crime because it is an important issue—indeed, a key issue—and sadly is often overlooked. The British Retail Consortium, one of the major organisations representing retailers, estimates that the cost of spending by retailers on crime prevention and of losses to the industry as a result of crime is a staggering £1.9 billion each year. That £1.9 billion cost is passed on to us as consumers and is having a major impact on the ability of retailers, at a challenging time on high streets, to make a profit and ensure that they have a profitable and valued business.

Let us consider crime as a whole. More than £700 million has been lost through shoplifting—customer theft—an issue to which I shall return. That represents a 31% rise in shoplifting on the previous year.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:32 a.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend both on securing this debate and on all his campaigning on this issue. He is rightly highlighting the economic cost of retail crime. Does he agree that there is also a human cost to retail crime and that we must do all we can to protect those who work in shops from threats of physical violence?

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:32 a.m.

My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. I am starting with the financial cost of crime, but I will come in a moment to the key issue, of which the Minister will be aware, of the consultation regarding attacks on shop staff.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:32 a.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the debate. I draw the House’s attention to my membership of and support from both the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the GMB, which represent shop workers in my constituency. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) have mentioned attacks on shop workers. In the Trafford Centre in my constituency, there have also been physical attacks on shoppers—gangs were threatening them with knives. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not just protection of shop workers that is a crucial factor in this debate, but the wider protection of the public?

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:34 a.m.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. I had not intended to refer to it in this debate, but self-evidently, in a big shopping area such as the Trafford Centre, policing and security for shoppers, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, is a critical issue, and my hon. Friend is right to raise it today.

As I said, £700 million has been lost because of customer theft alone, and that represents a 31% rise. Some £163 million has been lost via fraud and £15 million via robbery. That is the very hard end of retail crime whereby people walk into shops with shotguns and knives and engage in physical violence—attack shop staff—but also threaten and take valuable resource from shopping. A further £3.4 million has been lost via criminal damage, which can involve people vandalising shops both in the evenings and during the daytime. That is a staggering amount of resource.

The Association of Convenience Stores, which represents 22,000 small shops, estimates that there is a £246 million cost to its sector from retail crime. That is £5,300 per store. Interestingly, there is in effect a 7p crime tax on the cost of an average shop in a convenience store. The cost is being passed on to the consumer—the customer.

My purpose today is to look at three issues. The first is progress on the consultation that we secured from the Home Office earlier this year to look at shop theft generally and at serious crime. Self-evidently, we are in an election period, but, if re-elected, as a Back Bencher I will continue to raise this issue, whoever is in government after 12 December, because it is important.

Let me start with the very important point that my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) mentioned—attacks on shop staff. Today and every day, 115 retail staff will be attacked in their workplace while protecting the shopping offer on their retail premises, upholding the legislation that we in this House have passed—on solvents, knives, alcohol and tobacco—and preventing shoplifting in their stores. As my hon. Friend suggested, that is a traumatic event for members of staff. It puts pressure on their mental and physical health. It is not acceptable that 115 colleagues are attacked each day, particularly given that knives, for example, are increasingly a significant weapon on the streets. The industry itself is doing all it can to protect its staff in their workplaces by spending about £1 billion on crime prevention measures, but we are still in a position whereby we need to look at what measures we can put in place to support the staff who are upholding the legislation that we have passed in this House.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:36 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about crime prevention measures. Does he not see that there is a difference between the large shops—the Sainsbury’s and so on of this world—and the smaller shops, the small businesses, which have great difficulty in coping with the costs of retail crime? Do we not need a differentiated approach for the two?

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:37 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Everybody who runs a shop wants their staff to be protected. Large multinational retailers such as Tesco, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Asda are caring for their staff, but everybody who runs a shop, be it a corner shop, a one-person shop, or another kind of small shop, wants their staff to be protected at work. That is particularly important when those staff are upholding the legislation that we have passed. When they are threatened by people who want to buy alcohol late at night or early in the morning, when they are threatened for refusing cigarette, solvent or knife sales and when they are threatened for taking action to try to stop shoplifters, it is imperative that we, as the society as a whole, look at what measures we can put in place to help support them.

The Co-op Group recently produced a report entitled “‘It’s not part of the job’: Violence and verbal abuse towards shop workers”. It shows clearly that violence against shop staff has long-term consequences for them and their communities. I know the Minister will know that this is a key issue, but it is one that we need to raise, recognise, and highlight, and we need to give a commitment to those staff on the ground to ensure that they are protected as a whole.

USDAW, which, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), I am proud to be a member of—I declare my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—runs annually the Freedom from Fear campaign, and in the run-up to Christmas it will again run the Respect for Shopworkers campaign. Of the 6,725 shop workers surveyed by USDAW in the past year, 64% faced verbal abuse at work, 40% were threatened by a customer, and 280, on average, were assaulted every day. That is not acceptable.

I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who previously deal with this issue. We raised it during proceedings on the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. We tabled amendments and called for action in the form of a review of attacks on shop staff. The then Minister agreed to that review during a roundtable meeting with the Co-op, USDAW and other trade unions, the British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. That review has been undertaken; it has taken evidence. There has been an awful lot of consultation responses. The previous Minister promised to respond to that evidence in the course of November. It is now November, so I wanted to put that on the record and get some feedback from the current Minister as to where we are with that action. We are in a politically divisive time, but I hope the Minister and his team see this as an important issue on which we can have cross-party co-operation. If he can tell us what he intends to do, if the Government are re-elected, that would be welcome. I know what I would like to do if Labour is elected as the next Government—we would take action—but it is important that we discuss these issues today.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:40 a.m.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful to understand, should the Minister’s party be returned to government, what its view is on the use of facial recognition technology, which has been tried in the Trafford Centre, but is controversial? It has the potential to address crime, but we need to know what protections would be in place for personal privacy.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:41 a.m.

My hon. Friend has put an important issue on the table for the Minister to respond to.

In June, 50 senior retail figures, chief executives of the UK’s most recognisable retailers, the general secretary of USDAW, the chief executive of the Charity Retail Association and the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium all signed a letter calling for legislation in response to the Government consultation. Can we hear about the consultation and the potential legislation, and about what the Government intend to do, so that we can make a judgment about that? Whoever wins this election—that is for the British people—we need to know what measures are in place to take this issue forward.

I met with the Charity Retail Association—not just retail shops as a whole—which wrote to me on 5 June:

“We look forward to joining your list of…organisations in your fight for better protection for shop workers from violence or abuse.”

I wrote to the Minister earlier this year on the consultation that he is now considering. He responded on 3 September:

“Early analysis suggests that, as you highlight in your letter, the vast majority of respondents believe that violence and abuse toward shop staff has increased in recent years and that many respondents are unaware of the measures and tools available to tackle it and provide support for victims.”

My challenge to the Minister is this. Given that those respondents believe violence and abuse has gone up, and they want to see action from the Government, what will the Government do?

Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab) Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:42 a.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for securing such an excellent debate. Having worked for USDAW for nearly 20 years, I have spoken to thousands of shop workers who have suffered abuse. They often felt that their employer was not doing enough to be on the side of their staff who were facing abuse. That has happened over decades. Does he agree that the Government should take a lead on this and make it clear that it is never right to abuse or threaten staff on the front line?

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:43 a.m.

I absolutely agree, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s efforts in this area. It is right that the Government should do that. I am looking to the Minister to show political leadership on this. For example, 98% of the current police and crime commissioners’ policing plans make no reference to shop theft, 63% make no reference to business crime, 72% make no reference to prolific offending and 79% make no reference to addiction, drug treatment or drug recovery, which are key to preventing shop theft. What pressure will the Minister put on police and crime commissioners for their actions?

The Minister will probably have received a letter today, dated 1 November, from James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, supporting the broad thrust of this debate and the consultation, and asking for legislation. The key point from Mr Lowman’s letter that I want to put on the record is this. Since the Government’s consultation began—back through the autumn, summer and spring, to when it was launched—200,000 assaults have taken place on people working in the retail and wholesale sector, in their place of work, because of the issues that we have mentioned around shoplifting and shop theft, and the lack of prevention of those activities.

Mr Lowman makes the valid point that his organisation represents 33,500 shops, including the Co-op, BP petrol stations, Spar, Nisa and Londis—a whole range of shops. They are united in their wish for a Government to take issue on this issue and introduce legislation on shop theft and attacks on shop staff. I hope the Minister will give some indication on that in due course.

I also want to raise the issue of shoplifting as a whole. In the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the definition of shop theft was revisited. At the time, I was the shadow Police Minister. I objected to that change and we pressed the matter to a Division. “Stolen goods from shops” was defined as goods worth £200 or less, which meant that such cases would therefore not necessarily go to court. That has had a dramatic impact on shop theft. Someone could walk into a supermarket today and steal £199-worth of goods and potentially not face court, but instead face an out-of-court disposal. I happen to think that it is important that people go to court and face the consequences of their crime. We need to review the threshold.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and her colleagues will be in the Minister’s position shortly. After this election, whoever the Minister is, they should review the £200 limit on shoplifting. It is causing, potentially, increased shoplifting, because people know there are few consequences to face, and the police do not follow up on that type of activity, because of their stretched resources—which is something we might come to.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:47 a.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has done so much in this area. I agree that reducing shoplifting to the status of a parking offence has sent entirely the wrong signal. Does he agree that one of the perverse effects has been on the insurance industry? The police will say, “You have insurance.” If a small retailer makes a claim, its insurance goes up and the customer pays more. The shoplifter is the one person getting away with it, but everyone else is paying for the crime.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:48 a.m.

That is another knock-on consequence of retail crime and emphasises the point I want to make to the Minister. This is not an inconsequential or victim-free crime. The victims of shop theft and shop retail crime are the staff on the frontline, who are upholding the law, the shop owners and businesses, who take a hit to their profits, the customers, who pay more, and the insurance companies and other businesses, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) mentioned, which face the consequences of those actions.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:48 a.m.

I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his brilliant work over the years to support shop workers and the way that he has tried to get the Government to change their approach to the law. The wider damage done by crimes against shop workers affects staff, businesses and, at a time when retail is struggling, communities. Does he agree that, for all those reasons, if this Government are re-elected, they must act? If the Labour party is elected to Government, we will take the action required.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:49 a.m.

I am not a Front Bencher. My Front-Bench days are over by choice. I did the Minister’s job at one point. We had 21,000 more police officers, at that stage, who helped to protect victims from crime. I cannot speak for a future Labour Government, but I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea East and for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) will put in place measures to improve policing and legislation to protect shop staff, and to reduce retail crime, which impacts badly across our community and remains a hidden crime.

I have mentioned the policing plan and the policing response. I make no criticism of the police for being unable to respond at the same level as in the past, because when there are 21,000 fewer police officers than there were 10 years ago, that puts pressure on the police. The Government have said they will introduce 20,000 new police officers. I would like to know from the Minister how many police officers have been recruited since that pledge was made. What is his plan for when those 20,000 will be recruited? Why is he still putting forward proposals to have fewer police officers than when I held his job 10 years ago? What priority will he put on ensuring that police forces tackle retail crime, supported by legislation? These are key issues in any forthcoming discussion on this subject.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab) - Hansard

I, too, commend my right hon. Friend for the immense amount of work he has done over the years on this topic. Does he agree that policing is particularly relevant in rural areas, where we are seeing a massive loss in coverage by shops, particularly little independent shops? In my constituency of Warwick and Leamington, we have communities with a single shop—the one shop in the village—and they are the ones that are most vulnerable to retail crime.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 9:50 a.m.

They are, and as the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) said earlier, the additional costs of CCTV, head cameras, recording equipment or protective measures such as shutters fall disproportionately on smaller shops. When I was doing the Minister’s job, we had a scheme to support small businesses to prevent shop theft and other types of theft. I would like to hear what he proposes to do, should he be re-elected, on those issues.

I want to see the response to the consultation, I want to see more police officers on the street, and I want to see help and support to raise awareness of the importance of tackling this crime. However, much shop theft is also driven by alcohol or drug abuse and mental health issues. There is a real challenge for the Minister and the Government—again, I compare and contrast previous Governments with the current Government—in supporting those who face difficult challenges and whose shoplifting and shop theft, and maybe even their consequential violence, is linked to a problem that is solvable and that can be dealt with by society as a whole.

I simply make the point that in 2014, for example, there were 8,734 drug treatment orders in the community, but in 2018 there were only 4,889. The number of drug treatment orders given to serial offenders has almost halved in the five years between 2014 and 2019, while alcohol treatment orders have gone down from 5,500 to 3,300. People who needed a criminal justice outcome to their criminal activity—a community-based solution of a drug or alcohol treatment order—have seen the number of those orders fall dramatically in that period. That might mean that more people are in prison, which certainly takes them off the streets but does not necessarily rehabilitate them. Nevertheless, it is important that the Minister looks at how we can increase drug and alcohol treatment orders and the use of mental health orders for people in the community who are undertaking shoplifting because their treatment for alcohol or drugs is not being provided to the extent that it was. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, the shadow Minister, will look at that.

Again, in my time as Police Minister—I am going back 10 years—we had a prevention strategy as well as a policing strategy. The strategy was about trying to deal with the alcohol and drug problems that were driving offences, in addition to liaising with police in the community who knew who the prolific and serial offenders were locally and taking action accordingly. It is quite possible to find someone who is involved in 10 shoplifting events a month. Reducing those 10 to one through a drug treatment order has a massive impact on the crimewave in a local community. The Minister needs to explain what the Government’s future plans are.

Finally, I want to touch on the issue of serious crime. We have talked about shoplifting, which is serious; we have talked about violence against staff, which is serious. Sadly, however, there has also been an upswing in armed robberies at petrol stations, post offices, shops and supermarkets. I believe that the National Crime Agency should be focusing on this issue, driving down armed robberies, breaking up gangs and working hard to identify perpetrators.

Although I do not have time to go into that issue in detail, I simply put to the Minister three final points. First, he needs to give us the Government’s response to the consultation. Shop staff, shop businesses and shop organisations are unanimous on the need for legislation and a Government response. He should now say what he is going to do, because I am sure that my hon. Friend the shadow Minister will say that Labour will act if we are in government. Secondly, the Minister needs to review the £200 shoplifting threshold—as will my hon. Friend, if she holds his post in future—because it is having a damaging effect on shoplifting as a whole. Thirdly, we need a review to look at the number and type of organised criminal gang attacks on shops, because they are rising, causing fear among staff and damaging our communities as a whole.

This is an important issue. Today is the last day of our parliamentary Session, but I wanted to raise this issue because it matters to the people who work in shops, to the businesses that run those shops and to the consumers who spend their money in those shops. And it should matter to the Minister, as it matters to me and my hon. Friend, the shadow Minister.

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (in the Chair) - Hansard

Order. Looking at the number of Members who want to speak, I will give a guideline speech limit of six minutes for each Member. If Members exceed that, those at the end of the debate will get less time.

Break in Debate

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service (Kit Malthouse) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 10:41 a.m.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts, albeit in a different forum from the last one we met in. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) on securing the debate about a matter that he has worked on for some time. He worked closely with my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), now the Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability, who took the matter seriously. I listened carefully to the contributions of all hon. Members and I will try to address some specific points that were raised.

As I hope hon. Members realise, the Government recognise the significant impact that retail crime has not only on businesses and those who work for them but on shoppers, consumers and the wider community, as we have heard from several hon. Members. That is why we co-chair the national retail crime steering group to bring together the Government, trade organisations and enforcement partners to ensure that the response to crimes affecting the retail sector is as robust as possible. We have seen the benefits that that group can achieve in its recent response to the issue of violence and abuse towards shop workers, which was overseen by my hon. Friend the Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability, but we know there is more to do.

The right hon. Member for Delyn raised the issue of violence and abuse toward shop staff. I pay tribute to his work on raising awareness of the issue. I am aware of his discussions with Home Office Ministers on the topic during the passage of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 in the last parliamentary Session, to which he referred. Violence and abuse remains the biggest concern for retailers and we are determined to tackle it.

Every day, we ask shop workers to deal with whatever comes through their door, whether that involves enforcing an age restriction on certain products or confronting shoplifters. Like anyone else, shop workers have the right to feel safe at work without fear of violence or intimidation. That is why, on 5 April, we launched a call for evidence to inform our response—I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his submission. We sought information on four key areas: prevalence and data, prevention and support, enforcement and the criminal justice system, and best practice.

As was mentioned, the call for evidence closed recently. We received more than 800 responses, including many first-hand accounts from shop staff. Although Home Office officials have completed an initial analysis, we have not yet published our response. That will disappoint hon. Members who referred to it, but we want to ensure that the detailed responses received are subject to a thorough and accurate analysis. Given that Parliament is about to be dissolved, I will take the opportunity to share our initial findings with hon. Members and to reassure them that we are engaging with key organisations to consider the next steps.

An initial analysis of the responses shows a widespread belief that violence and abuse towards shop staff has increased in recent years. The most common reason given was in the context of challenging individuals committing shop theft. Many respondents felt that a lack of a suitable response from the police resulted in offenders not fearing repercussions. Many felt unsupported by their organisation’s policies and management when dealing with verbally abusive customers. A significant number of respondents stated that they felt that incidents were becoming more violent and that they had experienced threats from individuals with knives, needles or other sharp objects.

That is obviously unacceptable. Nobody should be subjected to such violent attacks, especially in the workplace, and I reassure hon. Members that we are keen to take action in those areas, and in some cases, we already are.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 10:44 a.m.

Before the Minister moves on, is it his gut instinct that, if he were returned, as opposed to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), he would legislate for a stronger legislative solution to the offence?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 10:45 a.m.

I will come on to that. I am not wholly convinced that we are without the tools that we need to deal with the issue, but we might need to address whether we are using them correctly.

On serious violence, we published the serious violence strategy, which has a particular focus on early intervention, in April 2018, so there has been action in that area. We allocated £22 million to the early intervention youth fund and, in the long term, £200 million to the youth endowment fund to ensure that those most at risk are given the opportunity to turn away from violence and to lead more positive lives. We launched a public consultation on a new multi-agency public health approach to tackling serious violence, following which we announced that we would introduce a new legal duty on statutory agencies to plan and collaborate to prevent and reduce serious violence. We gave the police extra powers to tackle knife crime through the Offensive Weapons Act, including new knife crime prevention orders.

Those wider measures will help, but we recognise the importance of focusing our efforts on measures that are specifically targeted on tackling retail crime. This year, the Home Office provided £60,000 for a targeted communication campaign, led by the Association of Convenience Stores, to raise awareness of the existing legislation to protect shop workers. We published guidance on about the use of the impact statement for business, which provides victims with the opportunity to tell the courts about the impact that a crime has had on their businesses. We also worked with the police to develop guidance for staff and retailers to use when reporting emergency and violent incidents.

The right hon. Member for Delyn and other hon. Members have asked the Government to consider introducing a new offence of attacks on shop staff, or to increase the severity of existing offences. I hope that he is aware from previous discussions that powers are already available to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with that type of offending and to provide protection to retail staff.

There are a number of assault offences and corresponding differences in maximum penalties. At the higher end of the scale, causing grievous bodily harm with intent and wounding with intent carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment. The sentencing guidelines on assault include an aggravating factor of

“offences committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public”,

which should be taken into account by the courts when deciding what sentence to impose and may be applied to retail staff conducting their duties. In addition, the Sentencing Council is reviewing its guidelines on assault. A consultation on the revised guidelines is anticipated in 2020. I advise hon. Members to respond to that consultation with a specific focus on assaults on retail workers.

Let me turn to some of the specific points raised. Several hon. Members called for me to publish the review of the call for evidence as quickly as possible. The fact that we are going into an election will make that quite difficult, but I give my undertaking that, as soon as we come back, if I am in the job, we will try to get it out as quickly as possible. Obviously, the five-week election campaign gives officials a bit of an easier time, so they can digest the responses and get it out as soon as they can.

The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) raised the issue of facial recognition technology. Obviously, we are supporting the police as they trial the use of new technology across the country. It has become clear that facial recognition technology has significant crime-fighting possibilities. A recent court case established that there is a sufficient legal framework for its use and operation in this country, but as its use is expanded, possibly by police forces, in the months and years to come, I have no doubt that it will have to come to the House for some sort of democratic examination at some point. Thus far, however, where it is being deployed, we are seeing significant benefits from it.

Break in Debate

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (in the Chair) - Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 10:57 a.m.

I thank all Members for their co-operation in keeping to the time guidance. I call David Hanson to wind up.

David Hanson Hansard
5 Nov 2019, 10:57 a.m.

I am grateful to you, Mr Betts, for chairing this session, and to the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) for their responses. I will take one point from what the Minister said: if he is returned, he has agreed to review the £200 threshold on shop theft, which I know my hon. Friend will do, should she be returned to office.

This issue is extremely important and will not go away. It is about ensuring that staff who uphold our laws are protected by our laws; it is about ensuring that they live free from fear. I suspect that every retailer in the country in response to the consultation will have said that they want a separate offence and for assaulting a staff worker to be an aggravated offence. I hope that whoever forms the Government after this election will look at the consultation responses and bring forward measures. It is within our grasp now. The people who work in shops, the people who manage, run and own shops, and consumers have the same objective—to allow shop workers to be free from fear and to go about their business supported by the state, upholding the laws of the land; to ensure that members of the public who attack them face an aggravated offence; and to ensure a greater police presence on the streets if needs be, more neighbourhood policing and strong interventions to tackle some of the problems that drive people to undertake those shoplifting and attack offences in the first place.

This is an important issue. I am grateful that so many hon. Members have turned up on the last Tuesday of Parliament to put down a marker to whoever forms the next Government that this issue will not go away and will be dealt with by Parliament.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered prevention of retail crime.