David Hanson debates with Home Office

There have been 37 exchanges between David Hanson and Home Office

Tue 5th November 2019 Retail Crime Prevention (Westminster Hall) 25 interactions (3,440 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (15 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Major Incident in Essex 3 interactions (61 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 Major Incident in Essex 3 interactions (52 words)
Mon 15th July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (56 words)
Mon 17th June 2019 Violent Crime 3 interactions (93 words)
Mon 10th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (48 words)
Wed 15th May 2019 Serious Violence 3 interactions (56 words)
Tue 7th May 2019 Places of Worship: Security Funding 3 interactions (106 words)
Thu 11th April 2019 Retail Crime (Westminster Hall) 29 interactions (4,433 words)
Thu 4th April 2019 Gender Pay Gap 3 interactions (40 words)
Mon 1st April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (49 words)
Fri 22nd March 2019 Emergency Summit on Knife Crime 3 interactions (56 words)
Mon 18th March 2019 Far-right Violence and Online Extremism 3 interactions (66 words)
Mon 4th March 2019 Knife Crime 3 interactions (77 words)
Mon 21st January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (46 words)
Mon 7th January 2019 Migrant Crossings 3 interactions (52 words)
Wed 19th December 2018 Future Immigration 3 interactions (56 words)
Wed 5th December 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 7 interactions (124 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (36 words)
Wed 28th November 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill 25 interactions (1,937 words)
Mon 5th November 2018 Leaving the EU: Rights of EU Citizens 3 interactions (26 words)
Wed 27th June 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill 7 interactions (162 words)
Thu 21st June 2018 EU Settlement Scheme 3 interactions (68 words)
Wed 6th June 2018 Rural Crime and Public Services 17 interactions (1,765 words)
Mon 4th June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (25 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Serious Violence Strategy 9 interactions (239 words)
Tue 8th May 2018 G4S: Immigration Removal Centres 3 interactions (29 words)
Mon 16th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (25 words)
Wed 28th March 2018 Police Funding 9 interactions (139 words)
Mon 26th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (51 words)
Mon 5th February 2018 Immigration White Paper 3 interactions (29 words)
Mon 8th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (42 words)
Thu 14th December 2017 Asylum Accommodation (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (25 words)
Mon 20th November 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (26 words)
Mon 16th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (42 words)
Mon 3rd July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (45 words)

Retail Crime Prevention

David Hanson Excerpts
Tuesday 5th November 2019

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
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 gov.uk 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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered prevention of retail crime.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 28th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Home Office
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, midnight

I would like to express my sympathies to the family. That is a dreadful tragedy, and I would of course be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and the family to hear much more about that case.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard

Is it still the Government’s aspiration for the UK to be a member of Europol?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, midnight

We have an ambitious programme of work for our future security arrangements. Other countries, such as the United States, have a relationship with Europol —in fact, I think the United States has the biggest attendance there at the moment. Europol is still an important part of our future as part of our future negotiations.

Major Incident in Essex

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 28th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:12 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and, being a neighbouring Member of Parliament, I do know Harwich. He is right to point out that all port operators and border staff around the country will be looking at what has happened over the last week with shared horror. They will be taking the right action in their own day-to-day work on risk-based checks, but at this stage I want to give the House the assurance that we are giving Border Force all the support it needs and we are working collaboratively with port operators. I also thank my hon. Friend for his work with Essex police when he has raised concerns in respect of the port of Harwich and on how to deal with those issues.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:12 p.m.

The Home Secretary will know that three years ago the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration produced a report on the east coast ports that raised a number of concerns about their operation. Will she agree to look again at the recommendations of the Border Force inspector to see whether she can update the House on the implementation of those recommendations?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:12 p.m.

I have gone through that report and seen the recommendations. I am currently reviewing aspects of them, but in particular how we can make them more relevant, because that was a report from 2016—although the findings were published in 2017—and things have clearly moved on since then. But of course there is another factor here: the extent of the organised international criminality, as well as many of the port security features that were raised in that report that also need to be looked at.

Major Incident in Essex

David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel - Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Oct 2019, 1:22 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. He speaks with great personal insight and experience, and he is right that the trauma following such an incident will be shattering for all those involved in the recovery and emergency services. It is an important point that, for anyone who works in a frontline service or an emergency service, the trauma and post-traumatic stress of being involved in such incidents, as well as in life-saving incidents, comes back later. We will therefore not only be investing but ensuring that we support those individuals who are doing so much work locally today.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Oct 2019, 1:23 p.m.

This was an act of unconscionable criminality organised by gangs across Europe. Has the Home Secretary approached Europol? We are still a member of Europol, which has, at its heart, a three-year plan to tackle criminality and gangs through co-operation across Europe to track down the perpetrators of this type of crime.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel - Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Oct 2019, 1:23 p.m.

This is now a live murder investigation, so all agencies will be activated in sharing information and working together. As the right hon. Gentleman says, there is a degree of organised criminality and, whether we are inside or outside Europe, we will always stand firm against this and make sure that we collaborate with all our partners.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 15th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 3:17 p.m.

As my right hon. Friend says, I will not comment on any sensitive intelligence matter, but he is right to be concerned about the rise in hostile state activity. There is ongoing activity across Government to ensure that our democracy is protected. We have taken many steps and co-ordinated them across Government and the relevant authorities. He will also be pleased to know that, now that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 is on the statute book, it gives us many more powers to counter hostile state activity.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

The Home Secretary will know that police numbers remain key to hostile state activity prevention. I have still not heard an answer to the question that my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) posed—how many extra police officers are going to be recruited, and when, to tackle this important issue?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard

When it comes to hostile state activity, it is not that police numbers are unimportant, but actually, the key is intelligence and support for our intelligence services, especially for MI5 and the excellent work that it does.

Violent Crime

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 17th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 4:20 p.m.

Action we have taken in the past 12 month includes: the serious violence taskforce, chaired by the Home Secretary and attended by the Mayor of London; the ministerial taskforce, chaired by the Prime Minister, to drive cross-governmental action; the establishment of the national county lines co-ordination centre, which has seen more than 1,000 arrests and more than 1,300 people safeguarded; the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, which is tightening the law on knives, acids and firearms, including through knife crime prevention orders; Operation Sceptre, which has been rolled out by police forces in weeks of action, the most recent of which saw nearly 11,000 knives taken off the streets; the anti-knife crime community fund, which funds small local projects—68 of them last year; the £22 million early intervention youth fund, funding 29 projects across the country; the #knifefree national media campaign, which has had more than 6 million views and 20,000 teachers receiving lesson plans in June; investing in Redthread intervention work in A&E departments in London, Birmingham and Nottingham; setting up the £200 million youth endowment fund; closing the public health duty consultation at the end of this month—and we are responding as quickly as we can; setting up an independent review on drugs; commissioning and receiving voluntary commitments from major retailers to prevent the under-age sale of knives in stores and online; giving more than £1 billion extra to the police this year, including £100 million from the serious violence and with the help of police and crime commissioners; making it easier for officers to use section 60 stop-and-search powers; investing £96 million to support victims and witnesses, through the Ministry of Justice; and supporting a new national police capability to tackle gang-related activity on social media.

That shows the complexity and range of the actions we are taking. I hope the hon. Lady is asking the same question of the Mayor of London, because we all bear a responsibility—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady laughs as I say this and does some funny actions. I do not know why she is taking this in such a light-hearted fashion. This is deeply serious. This is the commitment of the Government and our local partners, and we all should really be working together to stop this violence.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 4:23 p.m.

Whether we are talking about police officers required to tackle county lines from Liverpool to north Wales and Cheshire, or police officers needed to tackle the issues that my colleagues have mentioned in London, it must be clear to the Minister that there are not sufficient numbers of police on the streets. The Home Secretary himself, in his leadership bid, has said that we require 20,000 more police officers. Will the Minister tell us when she intends to secure additional officers? I am talking not just about through the spending review, but now.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 4:23 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that PCCs across the country are recruiting up to 3,000 new officers as a result of the new settlement that we—[Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service reminds me that Labour Members voted against this new settlement. As I was saying, this is as a result of the £1 billion extra we are investing in policing.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 10th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:10 p.m.

Yes, I can reassure the House that intelligence sharing will go on unchanged. The relationship between intelligence services under national security, irrespective of our status within Europe, will not diminish, and the same goes for our status within the Five Eyes community—a strong partnership for intelligence. In addition, when it comes to law enforcement tools, our relationships are also underpinned by the 1957 Council of Europe convention on extradition and the 1959 European convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters, and those will continue no matter what the settlement is.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

This weekend, the Home Secretary announced as part of his leadership bid a £500 million investment in border security in Northern Ireland, plus ongoing costs. Will the Minister agree to publish the proposals as soon as possible, so that they can be open to public and private scrutiny?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:11 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about investment in our border. However, I had a quick discussion with the Home Secretary, who does not have the same recollection of what he announced at the weekend. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman writes to the Home Secretary, the Home Secretary will set out the position.

Serious Violence

David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 15th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
15 May 2019, 3:04 p.m.

One thing that will certainly help in our capital is the violent crime taskforce, which is dedicated to fighting violent crime in London, as well as other measures that I will come to in a moment—for example, the resourcing specifically for fighting serious violence, in the Metropolitan region and elsewhere, including new police officers specifically dedicated to that fight.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
15 May 2019, 2:59 p.m.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for what he has just said, but I would like some clarification. He said the increase was the biggest since 2010. Will he confirm that it is the only increase since 2010 and that the figure has otherwise been cut each year since I was Policing Minister in 2010?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
15 May 2019, 3:04 p.m.

It is not the only increase. In the previous year, I think it was around £460 million—something over £400 million, anyway—and this is double what it was the previous year, so I cannot confirm that because it is not correct.

The police also told me they needed more powers, so we are changing the law through the Offensive Weapons Bill, which is expected to gain Royal Assent tomorrow. The Bill will make it harder for young people to buy knives or acid and will introduce the knife crime protection orders that police asked for. They also told me they needed urgent support to deal with the immediate challenge. They asked for £50 million, but I doubled it to £100 million, with two thirds going straight to the police. Last week, I announced that £63.4 million of that had been allocated to the 18 worst-affected forces. It will pay for surge activity and additional patrols. A further £1.6 million will help to improve the quality of data to support planning and operations, with the remaining £35 million being used to support the creation of violence reduction units.

The police also told me they wanted targeted stop-and-search—because it works. The Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has linked its increased use in hotspot areas to the fall in youth stabbings. For that reason, I have made it simpler for the police to use these powers by relaxing the rules on section 60 searches in seven of the worst-hit areas. At least 3,000 more officers can now authorise searches in areas where violence is anticipated, which will help to take more weapons off our streets.

Last year alone, police in England and Wales made nearly 8,000 arrests for possession of weapons and firearms following a stop-and-search, so it undoubtedly works, but we will continue to work with the police and communities to ensure its use remains targeted and intelligence-led. Of course, officers should never search people based on their race or ethnicity. This is not about any specific community; it is about protecting those most at risk. A black person is four times more likely to be a victim of homicide than a white person. In London, 53% of knife crime victims are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background. If the targeted use of stop-and-search can save any one of these victims, it can only be a good thing.

Places of Worship: Security Funding

David Hanson Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 5:18 p.m.

The £5 million training fund was announced in the week after the atrocity in Christchurch, and we are trying to make it available as soon as possible. During our early discussions with some members of the community, we talked about what would be the best way to use that fund, and how it should be focused. The hon. Lady asked me about a specific event that will take place very soon. I gathered that she would attend that event, or had been invited. I think it is great that Members of Parliament are supporting iftars around the country. I will check on whether the training will be available in time for the event in the hon. Lady’s constituency, and if she will allow me, I will write to her.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 5:18 p.m.

The Home Secretary’s package is welcome, but he will know that the best way to prevent attacks is to ensure that we have strong, intelligence-led policing. What is his view of the capacity of police forces to engage further in the assessment of potential far-right and terrorist activity? In particular, will he look at the issue of closed Facebook groups, which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)? In those groups, people continue to communicate with each other but the content cannot be seen by the police or the outside world, which can potentially lead to attacks.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the issue of closed groups on social media—the more private groups—is being taken seriously, and is being looked at. He also asked about intelligence. As he will know, the gathering of intelligence on potential terrorist activities is led by Counter Terrorism Policing, a national policing command working with police forces across the country, together with the domestic Security Service. Its budget has been increased significantly over the last three to four years, and it remains an absolute priority to ensure that it has all the resources that it needs to gather that intelligence.

Retail Crime

David Hanson Excerpts
Thursday 11th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Home Office
David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:30 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered prevention of retail crime.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Robertson. I thank right hon. and hon. Members for coming to this important debate against much competition on a busy day, with the Prime Minister shortly to speak in the main Chamber. I wish to put on record my thanks to the Backbench Business Committee for granting the debate, and to the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) for sponsoring it.

I also wish to put on record my thanks to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—USDAW—the British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, the Co-op Group, and the Co-operative party for working collaboratively with me on the debate, and for raising this important issue with the Government over the last few weeks and months. Today, I will focus on two key issues: shop theft and, in particular, violence and aggressive behaviour towards shop staff.

I think it will help the House if I begin by giving a flavour of the concerns in the community about how those issues are perceived. There is a range of ways in which we can look at this matter, but I will begin by quoting the British Retail Consortium, which is the trade body for major retailers across the country. The consortium does its own annual survey on retail crime and retail concerns, and its 2018 annual survey showed some key figures that are worth sharing. There were a staggering 42,000 incidents of violence against shop staff in the United Kingdom in the last 12 months; that is 115 a day—11,615 so far this year.

Customer theft, just from BRC members, equates to £636 million in one year—£1.7 million a day. Remember, Mr Robertson, that you, I and every member of society pay those additional costs on the goods that we purchase in store. Fraud costs around £163 million a year. Robbery—the more serious end of shop theft—costs around £15 million a year, as does burglary, and criminal damage to shops costs around £3.4 million.

Those are just the figures from the BRC. The Health and Safety Executive’s crime survey for England and Wales shows a reported 642,000 incidents of violence at work, including many of the issues that we will address today. USDAW, of which I am a proud member, as well as chair of the USDAW group of MPs, does an annual survey of violence and abuse against retail staff. Last year, USDAW surveyed some 6,725 members of staff, 64% of whom said that they had experienced verbal abuse when serving in a store and 40% of whom said that they had been threatened by a customer when serving in a store. Furthermore, USDAW assessed that an average of 280 shop workers are assaulted every day.

One important issue, which I will ask the Minister to focus on, is the triggers of violence and threats to shop staff. USDAW identified that the top triggers are shop theft itself, in terms of apprehending people who are stealing, and critically—I hope the Minister will focus on this in the longer term as well as today—the enforcement of age-related sales. If a member of the public comes in to buy alcohol, they have to be 18; there are also age restrictions on cigarette sales.

I raised age-related sales of knives and acids with the Minister during consideration of the Offensive Weapons Bill, because the legislation was making it an offence. It is not the police, trading standards or the Minister who will uphold the legislation on the frontline; it is the members of staff who face a customer seeking those products. In 22% of cases, age-restricted sales triggered violence, and in 21% of cases, the sale of alcohol triggered violence.

Mark Tami Portrait Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab) - Hansard

I apologise for missing the very start of my right hon. Friend’s contribution. I have been told by a number of representatives of shops and supermarkets that when shoplifting takes place and is reported to the police, quite often the police are not really interested, and it is down to the shop staff to try to recover the goods. If that message gets out, the problem of shoplifting will only grow.

David Hanson Hansard

My right hon. Friend anticipates a later section of my initial contribution, which will be about the police response. I will come to that in due course, but it is a critical point. If shop theft takes place—if a member of staff at the local Co-op sees somebody stealing a bottle of vodka and they say, “Please put that back”, that is one of the major triggers for the shoplifter to engage in verbal abuse or violence.

I have talked about USDAW and the BRC. The Association of Convenience Stores represents some 22,000 shops, the smaller stores that are in every town, village and community in the United Kingdom. It has identified that for those 22,000-plus shops, the cost of retail crime equates to £246 million per year, or £5,308 per store. Critically, that means a crime tax of 7p in the pound on the price that you and I, Mr Robertson, pay for goods. That cost comes from the loss of goods through theft and from the information that has to be provided, through CCTV cameras and in other ways, to prevent those thefts in the first place.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he share my concern about how reductions in the police service have affected response times and confidence in the police? The Central England Co-operative has suffered 18 armed robberies, and its staff are very concerned about how vulnerable not knowing whether the police will turn up for some crimes makes them feel. Clearly, the police will turn up for armed robberies, but there are a great deal of threats and violence against our shop workers.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:44 p.m.

Given my hon. Friend’s contribution, and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), I will skip a couple of paragraphs in my speech and return to my planned order later.

These rises and these concerns come against a background of reduced police numbers. In 2009-10, I had the great honour of being police Minister for the Labour Government, and when I held that post, the Home Office had 20,000 more police officers than it currently does. That has real impacts: on neighbourhood reassurance first and foremost, and secondly on visibility, but it also has an impact on response times. Obviously, people will respond to higher-level incidents, such as armed robberies—we had one in my constituency, in Flint, only this time last week. Police will respond to those incidents.

However, turning to the Government’s response to incidents of retail theft through the police forces, I will quote John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation. He has acknowledged that shoplifting is not a priority crime for stretched forces; he has said that

“as forces struggle to meet 999-call demand, incidents such as these are increasingly likely not to be attended by officers at all which, as a serving police constable with 26 years’ service, I find quite shocking.”

That backs up the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) just made. Thames Valley police has informed its local shops that it will not send officers out to deal with shoplifters who steal less than £100-worth of goods. I do not think that is acceptable, and I do not think that the Home Office believes it is acceptable. In due course, I will return to address that issue in detail, but it is a point that has been raised, so it is important that we discuss it now.

Given what the Association of Convenience Stores has said, what do other people think about this? Let me put some quotes on the table. Paddy Lillis, general secretary of USDAW—the shop workers’ union—has said:

“The idea that shoplifting is a victimless crime is wrong. Theft from shops is often a trigger for violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. The rising trend in shoplifting is extremely worrying”

for his members. Mike Mitchelson, president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents—one of whose members was murdered in the past month, in a shop in Pinner in north London, because of the type of violence that we are discussing—has said:

“Across the country we are suffering from increasing levels of verbal and physical abuse and it’s important that the full nature…of the problem is understood.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said:

“Violence against employees remains one of the most pressing issues retailers face,”

yet its crime survey once again shows

“an increase in the overall number of incidents.”

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS said:

“The financial implications of crime are clearly damaging for”

local shops, but their urgent priority is tackling

“the impact of violence, abuse and aggression on people working in”

communities. He said that “there is no excuse” for that abuse, and it must be stopped.

The Co-op Group retail chief executive has said that nothing is more important than colleagues’ safety. As a result, it has spent £70 million in the last three years on innovative security, crime prevention and colleague safety measures. However, it is clear to the Co-op that it needs support from the police, the judiciary and Parliament to make sure violence against retail workers is not tolerated.

We should be concerned not just about shop theft; violence and abuse against staff working in shops is simply unacceptable, and the Government must address it. The rise in theft is going hand in hand with violence.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab) Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:41 p.m.

It is very important that we also recognise that those shops provide vital services in our communities and on our high streets, which are under a lot of pressure. We as a society have to support businesses and individuals who contribute to our local economies at a time when there is a lot of concern about the future of the communities in which we live.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:44 p.m.

The vast majority of the convenience stores and local newsagents that have been referred to in the correspondence and representations I have had are one or two-person businesses, or businesses with very few staff. They also have a social function, because they keep an eye on their neighbours. If a person turns up for a bottle of milk every morning and does not on Thursday and Friday, there will be a trigger. The increase in violence and shoplifting is not acceptable, and it is driving a culture that I know the Minister abhors. The turnout in this Chamber shows that there is great concern about it. We must deal with it.

As I said earlier, that rise has happened against the backdrop of a reduction in police numbers and the response to retail theft. A key issue is that many lower-level shop theft incidents—I am not minimising their effect; I mean that they are not armed-robbery level—are fuelled by drug and alcohol addiction. The ACS said:

“Retailers perceive that 50% of the repeat offenders into shops are motivated by a drug or alcohol addiction”.

The three products targeted most by thieves in ACS stores are alcohol because it is alcohol, meat because it is expensive, and confectionary because it is the sort of thing that can be sold quickly on the streets to fuel drug or alcohol issues.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:44 p.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing this debate. I know how much he cares about this issue. Many Members will know that, in a previous life, I was a trainee butcher in Tesco for many years. That is where I did all my butchery training. On low-level abuse, one of the things that is not highlighted enough is that this is not just about robbery or abuse; it is also about the customers who come into the store. I remember vividly when I worked on counters that if we did not have a particular type of stock, the customers would feel free to scream abuse at us. There was no response to that; we simply had to take it. I now know that lots of retailers are developing safety training to counter the abuse that staff face and training on how to deal with aggressive customers. It is a sign of the times that more and more staff face abuse because people are having a bad day and cannot get the goods that they want. That cannot be allowed to carry on, particularly given that those people provide key services and are there to do a job. I have friends who still work in the industry and feel that they cannot stay because of the abuse that they receive.

David Hanson Hansard

My hon. Friend backs up my point strongly. It is simply not acceptable that people who are doing their jobs are abused. Ultimately, I want to look at age-related sales, because when the Government determine that the sale of certain goods and services should be restricted for a range of reasons, it is the shop staff who must enforce that.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:44 p.m.

I apologise for not being able to stay for the whole debate. Like my right hon. Friend, I am proud to be an USDAW member, and I very much welcome the debate. He is right to highlight the theft of high-value goods, which is sometimes related to addiction and sometimes—particularly in the case of women offenders—results from coercion by others to obtain goods that can be sold for those coercive partners to benefit from. Does he agree that it would be well worth the Minister’s while to look at the initiative undertaken in Manchester, where women caught shoplifting in such circumstances are diverted not to the criminal justice system per se, but to women’s centres? Good, preventive work can be done there to deal with addiction, domestic abuse, coercion and other causes of this kind of retail crime committed by violent and dangerous offenders, and also some vulnerable offenders.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:48 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I will talk about the four or five solutions in a moment, but the outcome of this should not necessarily be putting more people in prison. It might actually be trying to deal with the causes of people committing offences in the first place. That scheme in Manchester is a good example of how that could be integrated, and maybe, with good practice, developed still further.

That brings me on to the question of drug and alcohol treatment orders. If, as the ACS says, 50% of repeat offenders are motivated by drug or alcohol addiction, the key is to stop the drug or alcohol addiction. The figures for community order starts for people who have been caught, convicted and given a community order show that, in 2014, which was well into the Government’s term of office, 8,734 drug treatment orders and 5,547 alcohol treatment orders were given. However, the figures last year were only 4,889 drug treatment orders—halved—and only 3,315 alcohol treatment orders, which were down by at least a third.

If I go back—dare I say it, it is a long time now, but it is still worth going back to—to the last years of the last Labour Government, in 2007-08, we gave 16,607 drug treatment orders, which is double what we had in 2014 and four times more than now. I simply say that one way we can support people is by identifying why they steal alcohol or other products for their own use. They are doing it to sell them quickly, or to satisfy their cravings. We have to have alternatives, such as that in Manchester, and drug and alcohol treatment orders, which also help.

Finally on the picture of where we are is the threshold for low-level shoplifting. As shadow Minister, I dealt with this issue in Parliament five years ago when the Government introduced a £200 threshold for low-level shoplifting under section 22A of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, which means that people do not go to court for thefts of goods valued at up to £200. That in itself is fine, because if they are caught that might be dealt with by post.

However, this is five years on. The concern expressed to me from both outside and inside Parliament is that that has been seen as decriminalising shop thefts of under £200. That leads to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton made about police not attending, which leads to magistrates not taking cases in front of court, which leads to offenders thinking that they can get away with it. I simply say that we should look at that in detail and review this, now that we are five years on.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:49 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is being generous in giving way. To complete that picture, I visited a local Co-op store in my constituency, and the feedback was absolutely about drug and alcohol issues, but also that staff noticed a significant rise in people who just had no money, perhaps from universal credit delays; several women were caught stealing sanitary products, baby milk and nappies. It is absolutely right to point that out, but there are bigger issues in society that drive some of this that also need to be addressed.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:51 p.m.

I accept that, but we have to be careful not to equate poverty with shop theft. There are many people who have honour in themselves and will not commit crimes. However, I understand and accept that desperation can lead people to do things that they would not in perhaps more economically improved circumstances.

That background leads us to ask what we can do about this situation. I know that the Minister is engaged on this issue, and I give her credit. I moved amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill to make age-related sales an aggravated offence. We discussed those matters formally in the Chamber, and we have discussed them informally. The amendments were withdrawn on the basis that the Minister would look seriously at the issue. I am pleased to say she had a roundtable, which I went to, as did all the parties I mentioned earlier—the retail organisations, the Co-operative Group and USDAW—so that solutions could be aired.

A helpful letter of 5 April that I had from the Minister indicates—I thank her for this—that she has now undertaken a 12-week consultation on issues including violence and age-related sales, prevention and support, the role of the criminal justice system and best practice. I urge Members and organisations to respond to it. I think that the Minister will find there is a unified voice, and that the solutions are clear to all. The challenge for the Minister will be to take them forward. She has supported an additional £50,000 of Home Office funding to the ACS, for running communications campaigns. She has looked at publishing impact statements for business, and is working with the police to develop guidance. That is all welcome.

I want to conclude with my six asks for the Minister. She looks worried. Some of them are things she will already be aware of. I started my speech by setting out what the BRC, the ACS and USDAW thought the level of attacks and violence against staff to be. I want first to ask the Minister to bring that together, so that we can identify retail crimes, their incidence, and the overall level. All those organisations, the newsagents and the ACS and USDAW, are acting individually and not as part of a formal Government response. They indicate that there is a great deal of under-reporting to the police because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton said, the police may not be able to respond owing to their lack of numbers. Also there is a question about what the scale of the problem is. As I quoted Paddy Lillis saying earlier, the crime is not victimless. People who are threatened in shops are traumatised. People who are injured in shops go home and have days off sick. People go to their doctor and fear coming back to work. Shops have to increase security. It is not a victimless crime. We must bring a record of the whole matter together, and the Home Office is a key part of that, in conjunction with Police Scotland—I see my Scottish colleagues are here for the debate—and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Secondly—this will come out of the consultation, but I must mention it now—the Government should consider legislating for an aggravated offence with respect, in particular, to age-related sales and abuse of shop staff. We have tested that through the Offensive Weapons Bill and it is part of the consultation discussions. I want the Government to do it, because in addition to the traumatic experiences I have mentioned, and the potential for long-term injury and for people to lose their jobs because of assaults, staff who are required to enforce the law are the frontline, and the Home Office must back them up.

Current sentencing is complicated. The sentencing guidelines for all kinds of assaults are that

“an offence committed against someone working in the public sector or providing a service to the public”

is “an aggravated factor”, but there is no clarity about what is contained within that. If someone is abusive that factor should be taken into account—perhaps for a community sentence, which might be the most appropriate route. I want the shop worker at the front of the Co-op on their own to be able at least to say to someone, “Look, there is a sign there. If you continue this poor behaviour you are liable for an aggravated offence. Please stop.” It is a protection, if not a final conviction.

Mark Tami Portrait Mark Tami - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:54 p.m.

It is not just in the shop that people can be targeted. They can be targeted on their way home, particularly if some of the offenders live in the locality. They can be subject to that sort of attack all the time.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:54 p.m.

Indeed. Again, shop staff are part of the community. The town I live in is 12,000-strong. The people who work in small shops there live in the town. They put a uniform on for 20 hours a week in some cases. In some cases, low-paid staff are putting a uniform on and enforcing the law of the land. We have to give them support. As well as the legislation, we also need to look at prosecution and the response from the police. That is important.

Following on from bringing together the numbers and examining legislation, the third of my six points is about engaging with police and crime commissioners to make shop crime a priority. The ACS has a pledge, which basically says that police and crime commissioners should pledge to be

“confronting reoffending, particularly prolific reoffenders with drug dependencies”

and

“working to standards on what a ‘good response’ to shop theft looks like”,

which is the very point that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton made. Another pledge is to be

“always responding promptly to shop theft where violence is involved or where a suspect is detained”.

Often it is a shop staff member detaining someone who is drunk or out of their head on drugs in the shop.

Fifteen of the 40 police and crime commissioners have signed up to that pledge, which means that 25 have not. It is important that the Home Office grabs hold of the issue, co-ordinates a response, gives a level of guidance and priority and indicates that this is an important issue. We can argue about police numbers—we have done and will continue to do so—but this is an important issue. This crime causes trauma and difficulties and the Government should examine it, so I urge them please to engage with police and crime commissioners.

The fourth of my six points is, going back to what I said earlier, about community-based penalties. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) has indicated one mechanism. Drug and alcohol orders are another. There may be other things that can be done, including with approaches to CCTV. There could be guidance on other issues where we can give support and help. A lot of employers, such as the Co-op, are investing a lot of money in headsets, CCTV and a whole range of wireless operation things, but not every store can do that, particularly individual stores, where it is an extra burden of cost. Support for some of the community penalties will take pressure off them.

My fifth and almost final ask is for the Government, five years on, to review the £200 limit to see whether it is working, whether it has made a difference and where we are with that.

My sixth ask for the Minister is simply this: the Home Office, with the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Government, could explore the whole range of good practice that can be undertaken and push it out. I welcome the ongoing discussions with the organisations, but that can be done on a regular basis. I know there is a business group. What have the outcomes of it been in the nine years it has been established? What positive outcomes from it have moved things on?

Going back to my time in the Home Office, we had funds available that key organisations could bid for to help reduce crime. CCTV camera schemes could be discussed and improved. There might be all sorts of radio wireless schemes. There might be a whole range of things that the Home Office could do. It could have a fund for organisations to bid against for support to ensure we make a difference.

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 1:59 p.m.

On the particular issue of CCTV, the right hon. Gentleman is correct to raise the prospect of the Home Office considering whether CCTV infrastructure across the UK can be improved, particularly in our towns and cities. Not only would that help the detection and prosecution of certain instances of retail shop crime, but it would act as a deterrent. I am glad to say that in my part of Wales, Dyfed-Powys police and the commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, have recently reinvested a lot in CCTV infrastructure. Shopkeepers in Aberystwyth and Cardigan are keen to see that return.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 2 p.m.

There is a pile of good practice, and the key thing is that the Home Office is in a great position, with the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Government, to pull these things together and potentially provide seedcorn funding for innovative schemes that could develop into ways of reducing crime and shop theft in particular.

The “Crime Report 2019” from the Association of Convenience Stores gives a whole range of advice and guidance as a sector on reducing crime, involving CCTV; acid and knives; how to deal with ATM thefts; antisocial behaviour, which is key; behaviour outside stores, which often attracts people whose behaviour is antisocial; how to deal with cyber-crime or internal staff theft, which happens occasionally; what to do with age-restricted sales; and how to design a store, looking to design out crime. The Home Office can get a grip, and give advice and support, on such things.

Those six asks can be developed as part of the consultation. My hon. Friends may think of and develop more, but those six can move the situation on. As I said, and we must remember it, this is not a victimless crime: this crime will impact on the store owner, the financial viability of the business, and the health, wealth and wellbeing of the members of staff. It drives up the cost of food and produce that we buy, and it causes tremendous upset and a great deal of antisocial behaviour. It does not happen just in London, other major cities or in banks; it happens on every street on every day of the week.

As Members of Parliament, we have a duty to shine a light on the issue, to offer solutions and to support the Minister in the solutions that she has graciously brought to the table but, in doing so, to keep her feet to the fire to ensure that she delivers on the consultation. We do not want just to talk about such things, and for my words to float to the ceiling of the Chamber; we want them to result in change for the better. The Minister has a chance to grapple with this and to make a success of that. She will have my full support if she does so. If she cannot grapple with it, we will have further debates and discussions until the Government do.

Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab) Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 2:02 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson) for securing the debate and for his excellent speech.

For nearly 20 years I worked for USDAW, the shop workers’ union. I spoke day in, day out with shop workers affected by abuse, threats and violence. When I started out, I heard abuse mentioned as part of the banter in the coffee room, or members would speak at conferences about the abuse that they had received, trying to support each other and laughing at customers who abused them. They were trying to see the funny side, as so many working people do to get through. I soon realised that such offences were not laughable and not just the odd occurrences; this happened day after day, week after week, sapping away at people’s energy, self-confidence and self-esteem, and their ability to do their job.

I therefore worked with USDAW to set up the Freedom from Fear Campaign, with workers from across that great union, from shops and companies, and from all across the country. I am pleased to say that we had an enormous amount of engagement from shop workers, who welcomed the fact that at least they had a voice to speak about what was happening to them in the workplace. Also, professional support could be put together through companies, the trade union and professional organisations to ensure that incidents got reported as far as possible, and that employers did as much as they could to support their staff, putting investment into CCTV, reporting systems or counselling for people who were traumatised.

Shop workers have to put up with far too much abuse, threats and violence each and every day. On the basis of our surveys, we worked out that every minute of every working day another shop workers suffers abuse. Each day, more than 1,000 threats of violence are reported. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) commented, those threats do not just affect people in the workplace; threats are made by people who live in the same towns and communities as shop workers, so not just those workers but their children and families are affected.

Each day, 737 assaults are reported, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Far too many threats, assaults and instances of abuse are not reported either to an employer or to the police. As a union, USDAW has worked very hard to try to change that culture—to try to get the reports in place and to get employers and police to act on them. But too often, the impact on shop workers is not taken into account. We have fewer police on our streets and fewer police cells and custody suites; my local one in Buxton is due to close in a couple of months. That will impact on the number of arrests that can be made and the number of offenders who can be dealt with. Courts are closing down. We are seeing a reduction in arrests and prosecutions and, at the same time, a lack of the support services that my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) said exist in Manchester. I wish that such services were available in my rural area to refer prolific offenders to; too often, they are not.

Victims of crime over the years have told me how they have struggled to get back to work after being threatened or assaulted. They can have flashbacks; they suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, for which there are very few treatment services. That affects them in the workplace as they try to return to work. They might find that impossible, so they lose their job and livelihood as well as their confidence, self-esteem and courage to go out into the community.

The impact that I have described simply is not taken into account. With the reduction in the number of staff in retail, employers also have to play their part. There should not be lone working, particularly in areas that have seen assaults and antisocial behaviour in stores, but we see this far too often—staff, often women, left to cope alone at night with gangs of teenagers or with possible offenders. Employers have a duty of care to staff, and I am pleased that many employers, such as the Co-op, have put a lot of investment into supporting their staff, but others do not and we need to send out a message from this place that that is not acceptable and that employers have a duty of care that includes protection against known threats of violence.

If police get involved with employers, working with CCTV and the evidence that employers gather as part of their work, they will find that they can work with both employers and shop workers. In an era when we are seeing a massive reduction in community policing, the police need to do that; they need to reach out to shop workers and to cafés and so on. If people want to know what is going on in a community, a sure way to find out is to ask the local shop workers; they will know. The police and the justice system need to give those workers the respect that they deserve. They need to take into account the impact of crime on those workers and their families and the impact on stores and on our high streets, which are too often suffering a decline. If they can work with them to tackle persistent offenders and get evidence on the drug dealers who are too often pushing drugs to victims who then go out and commit shop crime, they will find that they can improve the policing in their area and improve their links with the community.

For many years, I have worked with USDAW to argue for a separate offence of assaulting a worker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn set this out. Shop workers do not feel that assaults and threats against them are taken seriously enough. The sentencing guidelines are extremely complicated. I worked with previous Governments on them, and there are so many factors to be taken into account that it is almost impossible for a victim of crime to see how the impact on them has had any impact on a sentence, even when an offender is actually brought to justice. A separate offence would simplify sentencing. It would encourage prosecutions, because it is simpler to get a prosecution in place through one branch of the law and through an Act. It would have a deterrent effect as well and shop workers would feel that the law is on their side. It sends the message that assaulting a shop worker is not preferable to being caught shoplifting. We in this House must send out that message to all shop workers, bar workers and café staff. They need to know that we, the police and the criminal justice system are on their side, because they are always on our side.

Break in Debate

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab) Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 2:36 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I pay great tribute to my near neighbour and right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson) for his thorough introduction to the debate and his extensive campaigning on the issue. I also thank all other hon. Members who have contributed.

I represent the most beautiful and nicest constituency in Parliament; there is nowhere that quite compares with it. It is 240 square miles and contains many vibrant communities. There is also a strong sense of community. Almost any shop worker who lives in my constituency will speak about that strong sense of community; how much they enjoy their job, in many cases; and how important their shop is in the community. That is all true, but unfortunately, it is not true all the time.

One deeply concerning UK-wide statistic, which came from the excellent USDAW, is that more than 280 retail staff are violently attacked every day across the country. That should cause us to be very concerned. Those shop workers go to do their jobs in the same way that others go to do their jobs, and that level of attack is concerning.

In my constituency, we have a good mix of small and medium-sized stores, and a few supermarkets, and the bulk of them take the issue very seriously. I put on the record my particular thanks to the Co-op Group, however, not simply because I am a regular shopper at the Rhosllanerchrugog and Johnstown stores, but because it has sent briefings on individual constituencies and has had the honesty to say some of the bad things that have happened in its stores.

I do not like reading things word for word, but the Co-op gave three examples of things that happened in its stores in my constituency. The first example is:

“A drunk man came into the store and started abusing one of our colleagues. This colleague asked him to calm down and stop swearing. The bloke carried on shopping and on his way out carried on the abuse so he was escorted out of the shop. When outside, he started swinging his shopping bag and throwing punches. He ripped the colleague’s glasses of his face and threw them into the car park. He then ran off.”

This is the second one:

“Two hooded men came into the store with a large knife. One of them grabbed a colleague and put a knife to her neck, and the other one went behind the till and grabbed another colleague. They emptied the safe and the tills and ran into a waiting car.”

This is the third account:

“Four blokes came into the store, they threatened colleagues with a knife and nicked all the cigarettes that had just arrived from the delivery.”

The people affected by that are ordinary working people in our communities. In that case, it was in Clwyd South, but there are examples from across the country.

I welcome what the Co-op Group has done with its community fund. In addition to security measures and the like, it supports projects that tackle crime and crime prevention measures. Its corporate social responsibility in that regard is very much to be welcomed. Of course, we need to tackle the root causes as well as the problem itself.

Reflecting what everyone else has said, I want to say this to the Minister: whatever is happening at the moment—my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn spoke about that in great detail—it is clear that we have to do more. I echo the calls to make attacks on shop workers and other retail workers aggravated offences. When the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 was going through Parliament, and in the campaign that preceded it, we heard many reasons why it was not possible. The campaign continued, and I am pleased to say that the Government supported it. That was very important. Many of us were co-sponsors of the Bill, and we worked on a cross-party basis. I am pleased that it got Government support.

As my right hon. Friend said, it is important that we look at creating an aggravated offence for attacks on shop workers, because shop and retail workers are a bit different from other workers. The argument will always be made that we cannot have aggravated offences against everyone. Clearly not, but the difference is that people know that shop workers have ready access to cash and have to handle it all the time.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 2:43 p.m.

Is not the key point the issue of age-related sales? Shop workers are upholding the law on behalf of the Government.

Susan Elan Jones Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 2:43 p.m.

Absolutely so. I agree wholeheartedly. Those are the everyday dangers that shop workers have to face, and they should not have to do so. They have to deal with people who are being obstructive outside their store. I have heard examples of shop workers who have had to deal with people who did not want to pay 5p for a carrier bag. I urge the Government to commit to doing something more on this issue. Let us work together, because it is not right that people in those shops, whether in the beautiful constituency of Clwyd South or anywhere else around the country, are affected in that way.

Break in Debate

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 3:24 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson. I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members for a really thoughtful and thought-provoking debate. I am particularly grateful to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), for such a brief response, because that gives me plenty of time to answer the many important points that have been raised.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) on securing this debate on a matter that I know is of huge importance to him and his constituents. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with him and members of the all-party parliamentary group on retail crime, chaired by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), particularly during the passage of the Offensive Weapons Bill, because we have made real progress. I hope we will make much more in future.

I will make a gentle point for Hansard regarding a comment that was made earlier. This debate is taking place alongside a very important statement by the Prime Minister in the main Chamber, about the European Council. I know that many hon. Members will have had real difficulty deciding which important debate they should take part in.

The importance of our local shops and convenience stores unites us all; every single constituency has such shops. I take this opportunity to thank the local shops in my wonderful Louth and Horncastle constituency. I may get into a battle with the hon. Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) about whose constituency is more beautiful, but I have the pleasure of having some special market towns in my very rural constituency, as well as many independent shops on our high streets that we are keen to preserve. I hope that all the shops in all our constituencies will have a busy and profitable Easter period in week or two ahead.

Right hon. and hon. Members have very powerfully made the point that crimes against our local shops and businesses are not victimless—everyone who spoke made that point strongly. I think that we were all struck by the examples given by the hon. Member for Clwyd South and indeed by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), who brought some of her own experiences to the Chamber. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) talked about the cultural impact of such crimes, not just on the immediate victims, but on the wider shop staff community and then on villages and small towns. I am grateful to him for making that important point.

Violence and abuse remain the biggest concern for retailers. That is the No. 1 priority for the National Retail Crime Steering Group, which I chair, and I am delighted to see members of the group in the Public Galley. The group brings together retailers, trade bodies, police and others, to help to ensure that our response to tackling those crimes is as robust as it can be. Our last meeting, a month or so ago, was extraordinary and focused solely on the issue of violence. I am grateful to the members of the group for helping my officials to draft the call for evidence in such a way that we get the richest evidence we can from shop workers and others in the retail industry.

I am absolutely determined to tackle this problem. Every day, we ask shop workers to enforce the law, whether by refusing to sell age-restricted products to those whom they believe are below the legal age, or by confronting criminals who are trying to steal from their business. Shop workers, like all employees, have the right to feel safe at work, without fear of violence or intimidation. That is why, on April 5, I launched a call for evidence to enable us to learn more about the scale and extent of the issue and inform our response.

We are seeking information in four key areas. First, information on prevalence and data will help to address gaps in our understanding and to build a more accurate picture of the nature of violence and abuse toward staff. Secondly, information on prevention and support will help us to gather evidence and information about what works in preventing such crimes, including how businesses can support their staff. Thirdly, information on enforcement and the criminal justice system will help to develop our understanding of the reporting of incidents, application of the current legislative framework, and the response by the police and wider criminal justice system. Fourthly, identifying further best practice will help to establish what works and to consider potential non-legislative solutions.

The call for evidence will run for 12 weeks, to ensure that those with an interest have sufficient time to respond. Obviously, we will consider the responses carefully and publish our response as swiftly as possible after the call for evidence closes.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 3:30 p.m.

The Minister has indicated that the closure for responses is June, but I would welcome some indication of when she expects to respond publicly. The Home Office has still not published a response to an outstanding consultation on air weapons, which closed in February 2018, so I would welcome some framework for her official response.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 3:30 p.m.

My intention is to publish it in the autumn. I ask all right hon. and hon. Members to spread the word through their networks and encourage local shopkeepers to contribute to the consultation, because the richer the tapestry of evidence that we have, the better we will be able to respond.

The call for evidence is supported by a wider package of measures. The Home Office is providing £50,000 of funding for a targeted communication campaign, led by the Association of Convenience Stores, to raise awareness of the existing legislation to protect shop workers. We have published guidance on gov.uk about the use of impact statements for business, which provide victims with the opportunity to tell the courts about the impact a crime has had on their business. From my experience of working in the criminal courts, I know that those statements can make a huge difference and have a real impact on judges as they are considering how best to sentence offenders.

We have also worked with the police to develop guidance for staff and retailers to use when reporting emergency and violent incidents. As I say, I encourage everyone with an interest to respond to the call for evidence, including shop staff who have been directly affected by violence and abuse at work.

Interestingly, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), who is sadly no longer in his place—he may be in the main Chamber—made a wider point about courtesy and the use of language. I am sure that we all consider that an important point that we will encourage people to remember as they visit our shops. Shop workers deserve politeness and courtesy, as does anyone else in this world. The example was given of an item of stock running low, which can be frustrating, but we should try to behave with courtesy.

I will quickly touch on the issue of police funding, which a couple of hon. Members raised. It has largely been a debate of great collaboration and agreement, but I must point out that police funding will increase by more than £1 billion in 2019-20, including, with the help of council tax, extra funding for pension costs and the serious violence fund. The Home Secretary has also stated that he will prioritise police funding at the next spending review.

Break in Debate

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 3:45 p.m.

A delegation from the Scottish Parliament—from Glasgow, specifically—came to see me about that and described the problems. It seems that there is more scope for precision policing in the local area. Policing in Scotland is now devolved, and where there are alleyways with drug paraphernalia, as the delegation described, I think there is a role for precision policing.

The hon. Lady will know that there is work ongoing with the local authorities to look at other ways of treating drug addiction, including more targeted heroin-assisted treatment. I am sure that, like me, she is pleased that more adults are leaving treatment successfully compared with 2009-10. The average waiting time in England and Wales to access treatment is now two days. On 2 October, we announced a major independent review of drugs as part of a package of measures to tackle serious violence. The review will look at a wide range of issues, including the system of support and enforcement around drug misuse, to inform our thinking about what more can be done to tackle drug harms.

Hon. Members raised the issue of alcohol dependency. The two phases of the local alcohol action areas programme, which works with a total of 52 areas across England and Wales, suggest that theft to support alcohol dependency is not as prevalent as one would imagine. Although many LAA areas have had problems with street drinking, none felt the need to take action to prevent alcohol-related thefts, interestingly. The reasons for that may be manifold, but I wanted to introduce that into the debate to ensure that hon. Members are satisfied that we have looked into it and will continue to do so.

Many hon. Members spoke about shoplifting of items with a value of less than £200. I will take a moment to clarify the law on that, because there appears to have been a misunderstanding. I am delighted that this debate gives us the opportunity to clarify the law. In 2014, we changed the law to enable cases of theft from a shop of goods of a value of £200 or less to be dealt with as swiftly and efficiently as possible. The changes enable certain cases to be dealt with as summary-only offences, so they can be prosecuted. The simple offence of theft is triable either way—in other words, in the magistrates court or the Crown court. We have said that shoplifting offences of values of less than £200 can be tried only in the magistrates court in order to speed up the process, in terms of defendants choosing trial by jury.

That procedural change was designed to improve proportionality and lay the groundwork for the police to prosecute uncontested cases in the future, much as they do with some driving offences. The change has had no bearing on the ability of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute a person for theft from a shop, or on the courts’ powers to punish offenders. An offender convicted of theft in a magistrates court can still face a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment for a single offence. I am happy to discuss that further after the debate in order to clarify people’s understanding. The value of shoplifting in irrelevant, because it can still be prosecuted even if it is under £200.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak raised the issue of banning orders. We introduced a range of powers through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014; these can be used by local agencies to redress antisocial behaviour that relates to retail crime, and can impose a range of conditions, such as banning an individual from entering a particular premises or area. Many of the powers are not limited to the police; some can also be enforced by local authorities. Again, if colleagues would like more information on how those powers can be used, I am very happy to share details after the debate. The more we can help our partners across local government and elsewhere to use those powers, the better I suspect it will be for our local communities.

I absolutely understand why the right hon. Member for Delyn and many others have asked the Government to consider introducing a new offence of attacks on shop staff. As he is aware from our previous discussions, powers are already available to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with this type of offending and provide protection to retail staff. There are a number of criminal offences available to cover a wide variety of unacceptable behaviour, ranging from abusive and threatening language to offences against the person. In addition, the independent Sentencing Council is planning to consult on a revised guideline for assaults during the summer. The call for evidence presents us with another opportunity to understand how the current legislation is being applied. I am very keen to look at the efficacy of community schemes, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central and others. At the end of the call for evidence, I am very happy to see what it suggests.

I am very grateful to hon. Members for what has been an interesting and important debate on retail crime. As well as hearing concerns, we have heard about the positive work that is going on in response to retail crime. Although much more can be done to reduce such crime, there is much that we can take heart from in the efforts of a range of communities, organisations and partners to respond to this problem. I know that we all share a common aim to create safer communities for the public we serve, and that, once again, we all thank our local shops and convenience stores, which are open at all sorts of hours of the day and night in order to provide us with a pint of milk, our dinner after a late day at work or a bit of chocolate when we need cheering up. All shops play an incredibly important role in our local communities, and I join hon. Members in thanking them all.

David Hanson Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 3:48 p.m.

I thank you for chairing the second part of the debate, Mr Wilson, and your colleague Mr Robertson for chairing the earlier part.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members for attending on what has been a busy afternoon and for contributing. I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones). Can it be only last Thursday that real people in Newport put crosses on bits of paper to send her to this place? It is a great privilege to have her here. She may have made more, but I have seen her make at least two contributions already this week. I welcome her, and I am pleased that she is here. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) for their contributions. The Minister responded, and I know that there is a working co-operation between us, but there are real issues about the level of theft and violence.

I have asked for the collection of statistics. I have asked for the consideration of legislation. I have asked for support for neighbourhood policing. I have asked for reviews of drug and alcohol work. I have asked for the prioritisation of retail crime. I have asked for a review of how the £200 threshold—I understand it, because I worked on the Bill at that time—is working in practice. I have asked for the Minister to disseminate good practice across communities, and the consultation that she graciously initiated will do that. When that consultation closes on 28 June and when it is responded to in the autumn, we as Members and we as in USDAW, the Co-op Group, the British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, the Co-operative party outside this building and every single person on the retail frontline will be looking at what solutions can be taken from the consultation to make a difference.

Freedom from fear should not be a slogan; it should be a reality for the day-to-day people who work on the shop floor. Freedom from losing business and profits because of theft, which can never be stopped completely but can be reduced by active government, is an objective we should all share. I thank you for chairing the debate, Mr Wilson, and I thank my colleagues for their contributions. I look forward to the outcome of the consultation, which I will certainly hold the Minister to account for in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered prevention of retail crime.

Gender Pay Gap

David Hanson Excerpts
Thursday 4th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Apr 2019, 10:54 a.m.

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. That is why we were so keen to introduce free childcare for children aged three and above. I will happily raise the point about local nurseries with the Secretary of State, but we are trying to encourage businesses and employers to think more imaginatively about how they can retain the talent from which they benefit. They may have spent many years training and developing female employers through schemes such as flexible working and shared parental leave—bold schemes that will make a cultural as well as a practical difference.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Apr 2019, 10:53 a.m.

Why have 100 health bodies across the United Kingdom increased their gender pay gaps in the last 12 months? If the Minister is writing to those health boards, what does she expect them to do on receipt of her letter?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Apr 2019, 10:53 a.m.

I expect them to look at the variety of diagnostic tools that are available on the gov.uk website, and to seek advice about how to better diagnose and then deal with their gender pay gaps. This is not an insurmountable problem, and health trusts need to understand that the gender pay gap expectation applies to them just as it applies to any large multinational company.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 1st April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Hurd Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:05 p.m.

It is the first duty of a Government to keep the public safe and the Home Secretary and I could not have made it clearer that our priority going into the spending review is police funding. More money has gone into Bedfordshire police and we intend to take police funding as a priority into the next spending review.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:05 p.m.

The North Wales police precept has risen by 8% at a time when, over the past few years, the reduction in central Government funding has been £31 million. Will the Minister indicate how much the North Wales police precept would have to rise to compensate for central Government cuts?

Mr Hurd Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:05 p.m.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman would welcome the additional public investment in North Wales police, as seems to be the case. That is part of a trend, which I hope he would welcome, of increased public investment in policing. If we want more to go into policing, we have to pay as taxpayers. Whether it comes from central Government or local government is not the point. He will know that most funding for local policing comes from the taxpayer through the centre. I will take no lectures on precepts from the Labour party, which doubled council tax when it was in power.

Emergency Summit on Knife Crime

David Hanson Excerpts
Friday 22nd March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:55 p.m.

This is a really interesting idea. There has been success in rolling up these powers—for example, in the cases of the Mayor of Greater Manchester and of course the Mayor of London—so there is a lot of evidence that it can work. My hon. Friend is right that decisions about reserves are made by police and crime commissioners. How they spend their money is their decision, and they are accountable to the public. I am delighted that police and crime commissioners are committed to recruiting more officers with the increased funding that they will receive this year. If that is what the public want, that is what police and crime commissioners should deliver.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:55 p.m.

Will the Minister confirm that police overtime over the last five years is already at £1.7 billion, and that only £100 million is actually allocated for overtime and only to seven forces? Will she also confirm who will chair the summit when it occurs, how long it will last and whether she will publish the outcomes?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Mar 2019, 12:55 p.m.

We are working through the details of how the £100 million is to be spent and sent out. Last week, we listened to police and crime commissioners, who put forward some interesting suggestions, and it would only be right for us to consider those suggestions carefully. The structure of the allocations is also being worked through. I have ideas as to how we will communicate information on the summit to the House. I am clear that this is an important topic for the House to hear about, and we will be letting the House know through a variety of channels.

Far-right Violence and Online Extremism

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

The communications service providers around the world need to get the message that we know that they seem to manage to do something when they really want to. We know that their algorithms are often designed to maximise viewing numbers and profits, rather than the safety of our constituents, and we need them to realise that we are on to that and are going to do something about it. Last year, Facebook took down 14.3 million pieces of content, 99% of which was done by automated tools. Before that, it took the Government to set up the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit—not the CSPs. That unit, on its own, managed to take down 300,000 pieces of content. If we can do it, those multi-billion-pound global corporations can invest more in artificial intelligence, and they can do so much quicker.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:24 p.m.

The UK Government currently chair the Commonwealth Heads of Government, of which New Zealand is a proud member. In passing on our condolences and our thanks for the excellent work of Jacinda Ardern, its Prime Minister, will the Minister agree to convene a discussion with the 53 nations about what we can do about Facebook and Twitter to collectively close down extremist content across the Commonwealth?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:25 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good suggestion. At the CHOGM that happened last year there was a session or two on cyber, but his recommendation is a valid one. I will nick it, if I may, and take it forward.

Knife Crime

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:35 p.m.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend mentioned the work of the Hollie Gazzard Trust and reminded us of how, through that tragedy, the family and friends came together to try to turn it into something that could help others. Indeed, I think the victims Minister met Mr Gazzard as well.

My hon. Friend asked me about the work that is being done to look into the drugs markets and drugs misuse. That is vital work because one thing that is clear is that sadly the changes in drugs markets seem to be driving much of this violence. If we can understand those changes better, we can come up with even more policy responses.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:39 p.m.

Has the Home Secretary tasked any individual to drive through the co-ordination, the prioritisation and the expenditure and to report back to Ministers? I simply say this because, when we faced this challenge in Government 10 years ago, we appointed the chief constable of Warwickshire to drive forward, across Government, a knife crime reduction plan, which reduced knife crime incidents through co-ordination and reporting to Ministers. He should look at what was done then and replicate it.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:40 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman mentions an important issue about leadership. This is such an important issue that it requires, as we are seeing, leadership across different levels—not just at national level, but in local government. We have talked today about some of the mayors and their responsibilities, the police and crime commissioners and the chief constables. It is important that all that work is co-ordinated as well. The work of the serious violence taskforce, for example, is important in this, as is the work that the National Police Chiefs Council co-ordinates and the work of the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre. So leadership at many levels is required.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 21st January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of the security relationship we have with many other countries, including, of course, with our “Five Eyes” partners—that is a critical relationship—and the NATO alliance. That does not take away from the fact that we also want to continue co-operating with the EU, and I am sure that we will.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jan 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Can the Home Secretary help me, please? The European Court of Justice has oversight of the European arrest warrant, SIS II, Europol and Eurojust. He says that we will have arrangements with all three; how does he cross the Prime Minister’s red line on those issues?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jan 2019, 2:40 p.m.

That is quite straightforward. If the right hon. Gentleman takes the time to read the political declaration, he will see that it refers to establishing arrangements—for example, for the quick and efficient surrender of individuals. They are not necessarily exactly the same instruments, but we have done this in a way that is consistent with our taking back control of our laws.

Migrant Crossings

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 7th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jan 2019, 7:39 p.m.

My hon. Friend mentions the UK-France joint co-ordination centre now opened in Calais. It is not that it does not work—it makes an important contribution—but it is not enough on its own, and its work needed to be supplemented, which is why we have taken further action in recent weeks, including working much more closely with the French on disruptions. As I mentioned earlier, of all the crossings we know about, the French have successfully disrupted just over 40%. We need to step up law enforcement co-ordination—the French have recently made several arrests—and ensure better co-ordination of maritime patrols and shared intelligence, and that is exactly what we are doing.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jan 2019, 7:40 p.m.

Will the Home Secretary tell the House how many convictions of people traffickers there have been in the past 12 months and, given that intelligence-led policing is key to those convictions, what use the authorities have made of SIS II, Europol and—ultimately for bringing people to justice—Eurojust and the European arrest warrant?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Jan 2019, 7:41 p.m.

Law enforcement work is an important part of this operation. Since April 2018, UK law enforcement authorities have disrupted 46 organised criminal gangs involved in people smuggling. In November 2018, two men were jailed for eight years each; in September 2018, seven members of an OCG were jailed with sentences totalling 48 years; and last February, two men were jailed for over nine years.

Future Immigration

David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 19th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Dec 2018, 1:57 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of the importance of control. One of the clear messages from the EU referendum was that people wanted to see control of our borders, and the new system will provide just that. Under this system, everyone who enters the UK will need permission, and that will give us a level of control that we have not had for four decades.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Dec 2018, 1:57 p.m.

I welcome the announcement of the electronic travel authorisation scheme, because it was suggested by the Labour Front Bench of which I was part in 2011. How much does the Home Secretary believe the development costs of the scheme will be, and will he monitor people who are leaving as well as those who are entering?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Dec 2018, 1:57 p.m.

First, the scheme will give us information about people entering and leaving. As for the costs, we have only just made a decision internally to proceed with the scheme. There will be further information as it becomes available.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 5th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
5 Dec 2018, 11:30 a.m.

I will happily do so, although I do not have the exact paragraph before me. In terms of the SIS II database, the document refers to the wanted and missing persons database. It also refers to another database—on European criminal records—in a similar vein. The declaration says that we will consider co-operation on those databases, but it does not guarantee that.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
5 Dec 2018, 11:30 a.m.

Could the Secretary of State point me to the pages in the document that he has published that give guarantees on our continued membership of Europol, Eurojust and the European arrest warrant? As a former Home Office Minister, I can tell him that they are critical to the safety of our citizens, but they are absent from the document.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
5 Dec 2018, 11:30 a.m.

The agreement clearly refers to the mutual exchange of data on passenger name records, DNA, fingerprints, vehicle registrations and fast-track for extradition—which I will cover later in my speech—as well as continued co-operation with Europol and Eurojust.

Break in Debate

Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Parliament Live - Hansard

I absolutely share that concern.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Dec 2018, 2:12 p.m.

The critical point that my right hon. Friend needs to be aware of is that the European arrest warrant is subject to the ECJ for other European countries, and the Government have specifically said that we should not be a member of the ECJ, so we would have to have individual relationships with each country and would therefore be less safe under the Government’s proposal.

Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Dec 2018, 2:15 p.m.

I will come to that point, but I will say now that the Prime Minister’s red lines, one of which was the ECJ, may well prove to have been reckless. The EU insists on treaty arrangements governing key aspects of international security, justice and policing, as do we. Without a treaty, courts have no legal basis to implement arrest or extradition warrants and cannot allow third countries access to criminal and other databases. We are on course to become a third country in our relationship with the EU. Because there is no security treaty planned or even aimed for in the exit documents, the level of co-operation between the UK and the EU post Brexit could be severely and unavoidably downgraded.

Ministers will be aware that neither France nor Germany will automatically extradite to non-EU countries—their constitutions say that. There will be a mutual loss of the use of the European arrest warrant, and the UK will no longer be able to access the Europol database in real time. In addition, as a third country, the UK’s access to databases of criminal records, fingerprints, DNA and missing and wanted persons will be compromised. Ministers promise a future security partnership between this country and the EU. However, the assurance on access to SIS II and the European criminal records information system is only that

“the UK and the EU have agreed to consider further how to deliver capabilities that, as far as technically and legally possible, approximate those enabled by EU mechanisms”.

That is not the same as assuring us of the same level of co-operation that we have today. In relation to the European arrest warrant, there is not even that promise. On passenger name records and the exchange of DNA, fingerprints, and vehicle registration, the agreement says:

“The UK and the EU have agreed to establish reciprocal arrangements”.

It does not say that they have established reciprocal arrangements; it is a wish for the future. However, without appeal and oversight by a court—that role is currently played by the ECJ—all these things could be subject to legal challenge in practice.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 3rd December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. It is about resources—that is why we saw an increase in police resources last year; and there will be a police settlement statement soon, which will look at resources going forward—but it is also about powers, and I remind him that we will shortly be bringing forward a draft domestic abuse Bill.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

T8. I listened carefully to the Home Secretary earlier, but I am still not clear: are we to be a member of Europol in this brave new world, or simply shadowing and co-operating with it? [907983]

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 3:28 p.m.

We have an agreement with the EU—a draft agreement that this House can vote on—which gives us a very close relationship with the EU on security and co-operation, and it includes considering membership of Europol.

Offensive Weapons Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 28th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office
Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 12:39 p.m.

The purpose of my amendments 23 and 24 is to avoid banning lever-release rifles. They are probing amendments; I just wish to explore the Government’s position, and I do not intend to press them to a Division.

I would like to start by thanking Little Chalfont Rifle and Pistol Club and my constituents who are members of it for helping me better to understand lever-release rifles by allowing me to fire several of them. Lever-release rifles are built and designed in the UK. They have a mechanism by which the rifle unloads itself with propellant gas but stops short of reloading. In a sense, they are self-cocking, but not self-loading. A lever is pressed to release the working parts and load the next round. My amendments would allow lever-release rifles but ban so-called MARS—manually activated release system—rifles, which allow the working parts to come forward using a second trigger press.

The lever-release mechanism was produced within current firearms law to be suitably used and owned on a section 1 firearms licence. These rifles are a valuable resource for disabled and elderly shooters in particular, who can struggle with conventional operating actions, and are no more dangerous than any other legally owned firearm of a similar calibre. The mechanism is not a bump stock, which has no place in target shooting; there seems to be unity about that.

The National Rifle Association has provided evidence that lever-release systems do not significantly increase the rate of fire capability of rifles. Lever-release rifles have a comparable rate of fire to bolt-action rifles—that is, one to two rounds per second, against one or less with a bolt-action rifle. Those rates of fire are based on un-aimed shots. In reality, the rate of fire for aimed shots, including the time taken to come back to aim and replace magazines, will yield an aimed shot about every two to four seconds in the hands of an expert marksman, regardless of the system used. I can certainly testify to that, having tried them. They have considerable recoil, and the idea of having a high rate of fire with aimed shots is really for the birds.

The lever-release system can allow an able-bodied shooter to maintain their firing position, assisting accuracy in a sport that is defined by accurate shooting. According to British Shooting, disabled people currently make up 25% of recreational shooters—a number that it is committed to increasing further. The NRA has informed us that 42.5% of its members are aged 60 or older. Lever-release rifles can allow less able people to continue to participate in the sport.

It seems unnecessary to ban lever-release rifles. My amendments would ban so-called MARS firearms, where the trigger is pulled a second time. I would like the Minister to set out exactly why shooters with lever-release rifles should have those weapons taken from them. A cornerstone of democracy is minority rights. I do not think that these weapons represent a significant additional risk for having a lever-release mechanism, and though I am only probing the Government’s position, I would like the Minister to set out in detail why owners will be stripped of those firearms.

Finally, in the original impact assessment, published alongside the consultation document, the Government estimated the total cost of compensation for the owners of these firearms to be between £1 million and £1.1 million in the first year of the policy. Responses to the consultation suggest that this was a considerable underestimate, and I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give us a new and more accurate estimate of the cost of the compensation.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:09 p.m.

I wish to speak in support of new clause 2, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth), and new clauses 18 and 19, which I tabled for the House to consider today.

I confess that I would not have tabled new clauses 18 and 19 had we had some clarity from the Government on the consultation on air weapons. Members will recall that the Government were asked to undertake a consultation on air weapons safety by the West Suffolk coroner on 10 October 2017 and that the Government announced a consultation on air rifle legislation on 12 December 2017. It closed on 6 February 2018, to which as I recall—on 20-something November 2018—we still have not had a response, despite some 50,000 consultation responses.

The reason why I want this to be looked at is quite clear and quite tragic. My constituent George Atkinson was killed by an air rifle in a tragic accident at a cousin’s house some years ago. The air rifle in the house was not locked in a cabinet, and George had access to it. Playing with air rifles, as I did myself in my own house as a child, resulted in George’s accidental death, and his family had the tragedy of losing their 13-year-old son.

John and Jane Atkinson, George’s parents, have campaigned very strongly to try to get some measure of safety added to air rifles. They are not against the use of air rifles as a whole, but they want some safety measures added. The figures back up their concerns. We have seen some 25 cases of serious injury from air rifles this year and 288 cases that resulted in slight injury, while air rifles have been used in some 2,203 incidents—not just accidents, but deliberate use—involving offences in 2016-17.

The legislation—this is where I hope my two new clauses will come in—is currently the Firearms Act 1968, which says that it is an offence for a person in possession of an air weapon to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining unauthorised access to it. However, it does not define what reasonable precautions are in relation to protection for individuals.

As I have said, my constituents, although they have lost their son, do not wish to see airguns banned; they wish to see them made safer. My new clauses would do two things. The first new clause would ensure that airguns had to be kept in a lockable cabinet at home, with the key kept separate from the cabinet. If that had been in place, it would accordingly be an offence if the cabinet was accessed. There has to be a lockable cabinet.

The second new clause shows that we want trigger guards to be added to air rifles that, again, are only accessible by the owner of the air rifles. That does not prevent anybody from owning an air rifle or using an air rifle, or impose legal requirements on using one for sport or any other purpose. However, the new clauses would put in place two significant measures that would strengthen the Firearms Act and make the reasonable precautions measurable. Without measurable reasonable precautions, nobody can say what a reasonable precaution is.

For the memory of children and young people such as George Atkinson, it is important that we seek to have reasonable precautions. I want to hear from the Minister whether she will look at and support new clauses 18 and 19, and when she expects to respond to the consultation. Will she take on board those two suggestions, and, ultimately, not ban such weapons, but—perhaps as part of the wider examination mooted in new clause 2, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South—look at what measures we can take to make them safer?

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:14 p.m.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when the firearms legislation was revised in 2002, just before he became a Northern Ireland Minister, it brought anything firing a projectile with over 1 kJ of energy within the ambit of a firearms certificate? That distinguishes between airsoft and air rifles, so every air rifle in Northern Ireland has to be on a firearms certificate. That does not ban them, but it brings in the security protections and measures that he has outlined.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:15 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of the proposals that were brought in for Northern Ireland.

New clauses 18 and 19 are reasonable. A lockable cabinet and a lockable trigger guard will ensure that children and young individuals, who do not realise the potential power of these weapons, have more difficulty accessing weapons whose legal owners may currently keep them in an unlocked cabinet and without a trigger guard. I think the Minister needs to look at this, and I hope that she will support the new clauses. If she will not do so, I hope for a good explanation why not.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:15 p.m.

I wish to speak to Government amendment 26 and other related amendments. I had not intended to speak, but I feel duty bound to do so. Some time back, when the proposal to ban .50 calibre weapons came to the fore, like many of my Conservative colleagues, I wrote to the Minister to ask for the evidence base for it. The response I got back did not ultimately persuade me that there was such an evidence base. I think of myself as a libertarian, and if we are going to ban anything, there needs to be a justification for doing so. I was very much part of raising that query and concern.

I absolutely supported the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), which would have tightened up some of the rules around gun clubs with regard to these weapons. I am speaking in order to do almost an about-turn—I touched on this in my intervention during my hon. Friend’s speech—and this has really come to light for me. The issue is not so much about the .50 calibre weapons. I take the point, and it is well made, that one would not be able to remove and use this type of weapon in such a way; they are used for a specific purpose. None the less, if we are not careful with our gun clubs and do not make sure that the rules are tight, there will be situations where there are breaches that have tragic consequences. I want to reference what I touched on in my intervention.

I will run through the exchange that happened during the court process. Mr Craig Savage, the constituent I referred to—in fact, this happened just into a neighbouring constituency—managed to book his local gun club. It is my local gun club—I have actually used it—and the same one that has written to me to try to persuade me how safe it is and what a great pursuit the sport is.

Break in Debate

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:03 p.m.

I am extremely concerned to hear that, but I wonder why the local police are not using the powers already available to them, because if a gang is behaving like that, there are offences that would enable the police to deal with that threatening behaviour, and any violent acts.

The Sentencing Council has set out, in its definitive guideline on assault offences, that it is an “aggravating factor” for an offence to be committed against those who are either working in the public sector or providing a service to the public, and an offence against either group could result in a more severe sentence within the statutory maximum for the offence—and that includes retail and shop staff.

However, there is more to this than the shape of the legislation, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree. That is why, in October 2017, the National Police Chiefs Council—with the support of Home Office funding—launched the national business crime centre, a repository for good practice, standards and guidance for all business nationally. It also acts as a national alert and data feed service, to enable businesses to have more information regarding crime in their local area.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:03 p.m.

If all the Minister says is true, why has every retail organisation in the country, and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, argued in favour of new clause 1, which I shall be moving shortly?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

They are of course free to do so, but we have looked carefully at the law. However, I chair the national retail crime steering group, which brings retailers and police together to tackle retail crime, and I am happy to ask the police, in that forum, why retailers feel this way.

Break in Debate

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because he has identified one of the problems with which we grappled in Committee. The Bill includes a clause specifically for overseas sales. The requirement is that any delivery company that enters into a contract with an overseas retailer or manufacturer must itself conduct the checks as to the age of the person to whom it is delivering. Arguably, the checks are more arduous on delivery drivers for overseas retailers than for UK-based retailers. He will understand that, if a retailer resides in China, there is very little we can do to require it to comply with these laws, but we have tried to address that point.

I hope and believe that the Bill addresses the concerns that have been raised about the sale and delivery of corrosive products, the possession of corrosive substances, the sale and delivery of knives and so on. I will listen with interest during the rest of this debate because hon. Members have tabled several interesting amendments. I hope that I have answered their concerns with regard to the amendments and new clauses I have spoken on thus far, but I may seek to address one or two amendments at a later stage if there are particular questions they would like me to answer.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:30 p.m.

I rise to speak to new clause 1. I say to the Minister straightaway that I think she has missed the point on this. We are trying to strengthen the Bill to protect retail staff who are upholding the law. I support the Government’s position in relation to the banning of sales to under-18s of corrosive products and the restrictions on sales of knives. However, the question is whether it is right that those who hold stocks of those items are accordingly prosecuted if they sell them.

The key question for this House is: what about the people who are at the frontline in upholding the law through enforcing this legislation? Under this Bill, in the case of refusal to sell corrosive products and knives, it will not be the police or the security services, police community support officers or police and crime commissioners, or the local council or trading standards who are at the frontline in upholding the legislation that we hope the House will pass this evening. It will be the individual shop staff—often alone; often, perhaps, not much older than some of the people who are trying to buy these products—who are at the frontline of that challenge.

Let us just picture for a moment a large, 24-hour supermarket open at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning with a shop assistant at the front counter refusing to make a sale of a corrosive product or a knife, upholding the legislation that the Minister proposes. Imagine for a moment a small, open-all-hours shop refusing to sell these products, or a DIY store on a Saturday afternoon refusing to sell at that frontline. When that member of staff says no, they say no on behalf of us all in upholding this legislation.

The simple measure that I have brought before the House would strengthen the Bill to give those people some protection. It would tell them what their rights are in upholding this legislation and what defences we are giving to them.

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:33 p.m.

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, I worked for Asda for 12 years before I first entered this place, and what he has said about shop staff is absolutely right. It is a hellishly difficult job working on the checkouts in a supermarket—or in any shop, for that matter—and we ask an awful lot of those people, who are not paid an awful lot to do the really responsible job that they do. I agree that the least that we can do in this House, when we put such pressures on them, is to give them the support that they need. On that basis, I very much support his new clause 1.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:34 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. As he will know, the frontline staff are the people who are upholding the law not just on this issue but on all age-related sales. While today we can only discuss amendments on corrosive products and on knives, the Minister needs to look at this issue in relation to all age-related sales. Shop staff are upholding the law on our behalf, and they deserve protection. My new clause would strengthen that protection. It provides for a level 4 fine of up to £2,500 for abusive behaviour when staff are enforcing the legislation that the Minister proposes.

Gareth Snell (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab/Co-op) Parliament Live - Hansard

I, too, support my right hon. Friend’s new clause 1. Does he agree that there is a particular point about staff in small shops that are often open until 8, 9 or 10 o’clock at night? The shop will often be the only place open in that community and not in an area where people are walking past. The one or two staff in there could find themselves under immense pressure from people wanting to buy substances, and they have to reject them with nobody about to help.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:34 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right. If the Bill was passed with new clause 1 included, shop workers could at least point to a sign on the till saying, “You will face a fine if you do not desist from this behaviour.” There are fewer police on the streets to call, but this is an opportunity to at least strengthen the protection of individuals working in these shops.

The retailers we have all met in the past few weeks as part of the “Freedom from Fear” campaign are doing their bit. They are installing CCTV and putting security measures in place. I visited the Co-op in Leeswood in my constituency, where staff have handsets and headphones so that they can communicate, and individuals are being banned from stores. It knows that it has a duty of care for its staff. All I am asking is that the Government recognise they have a duty of care also.

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:34 p.m.

I, too, support my right hon. Friend’s new clause. Does he agree that workers in rural locations, where shops are often single-staffed and the distance from the nearest police station may be significant, are often left in a very vulnerable situation indeed?

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:34 p.m.

Indeed. My new clause—if adopted, or if the Minister looks at this as part of age-related sales—would give additional protection to shop workers who are upholding the legislation that this Government have introduced.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, of which I am a proud member and which—I declare an interest—gives some support to my constituency party, supports my new clause. The Co-op party, the co-op movement, the Association of Convenience Stores, the British Retail Consortium and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents all support the new clause publicly and visibly because they recognise that they have a duty of care to their staff.

This matters because, in the past 10 years, we have seen a rise in the incidence of assaults on and threatening behaviour towards retail staff. An USDAW survey showed last year that 66% of staff have reported verbal abuse, and the number who reported threats of physical violence increased to 42% in the past year alone.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:34 p.m.

I support my right hon. Friend’s new clause. I visited a Co-op shop in Croydon recently. The manager there had had a knife pulled on him. There had been several occasions in recent times when incidents had occurred but the police had not come, because the incidents were not deemed important enough. Those shop workers were having to deal with all kinds of incidents. They feel a lack of protection, and they support what my right hon. Friend is trying to do.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:30 p.m.

My new clause would give added protection, but more importantly, it would show retail staff on the frontline that we are on their side, backing them up and giving them the support they need.

The British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores have identified violence to staff as the most significant risk in the sector. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has published research showing that there are 2,300 incidents daily among its members. The Association of Convenience Stores has said that enforcing the law on age-restricted sales is one of the biggest triggers of abuse against people working in convenience stores. The British Retail Consortium has said that age verification checks are one of the key triggers for attacks. USDAW has said that shop workers are on the frontline of helping to keep our community safe, so their role should be valued and they deserve our respect. The Co-op and police and crime commissioners such as Paddy Tipping in Nottingham have said the same.

If the Minister can agree to this new clause or take it away and look at the general principle with the National Police Chiefs Council, she will be standing shoulder to shoulder with every member of staff who is upholding the law. She will be saying that she is with them and protecting them. She should do the right thing. The 15,000 members of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents want this new clause. The British Retail Consortium, representing 70% of retail trade, wants this new clause. The Association of Convenience Stores, representing 33,000 stores, wants this. The Co-op group wants it. The Co-op party wants it, and the USDAW trade union wants it. It seems that the only person who does not is the Minister. I know that she is concerned about this issue. I ask her to reflect upon it, to support this new clause and to work with those bodies to come to a solution that protects retail staff who are enforcing the legislation that this House has enacted.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:39 p.m.

At the moment, many of our constituents seem to think the only thing we are discussing in this place is yet more Brexit, so it is with great pleasure that I am here to speak about something so important, unfortunately, to the daily lives of many of our constituents.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a group of 16 to 18-year-olds in my constituency. Colleagues will know that that can sometimes be quite a challenging group of constituents to please. When I told them that one of the things we were working on in Westminster was a new law that would make it so much more challenging to buy and sell dangerous knives—zombie knives and the like—on the internet, they stood up and clapped, because it is so near the top of their list of concerns and of their agenda for how to keep themselves safe when they are out on the streets. They have been shocked, as we all have been shocked, by the rise in violent crime across the country. When violent crime increases, it is, unfortunately, very often our young people who suffer. I believe that it is the first job of politicians to try to keep our constituents safe, and that is why I welcome the Bill.

We have discussed the sale of knives online, stopping them being sent to residential addresses, and if they are legal sales—in other words, sales of a permitted bladed article to someone over the age of 18—making sure that those who receive them provide identification. I welcome the parts of the Bill that make it illegal to possess the most offensive weapons in private as well as in public, including zombie knives and knuckledusters. New clause 16, moved today, will make the offence of threatening with an offensive weapon in a private place part of the Bill. This new offence of making it unlawful to have offensive weapons in private means that, when the police find a zombie knife in a private place or someone’s home—as members of Chelmsford police have—they can arrest and charge the owner with the proposed offence and remove the weapon from the owner.

I am extremely pleased that the Bill extends the current offence of possessing such bladed articles or offensive weapons on school premises to cover all further education premises in England and Wales as well as schools. As I have said, it is this group of 16 to 18-year-olds in my constituency who have campaigned very hard since my election for stronger laws against this type of crime and for stronger action against this type of weapon.

In Essex, we have the highest number of violent incidents relating to urban street gangs and county lines in the whole of the east of England, but we have a police and crime commissioner who is committed to reducing that. While violent crime across the country has increased by 12%, the police and crime commissioner in my own county—the police, fire and crime commissioner; she has now taken on the fire commissioner role as well—told us just last Friday night that it has increased by 3% to 4% in Essex. That is lower than the national rise, but it is still increasing.

Thanks to Ministers listening to the pleas from Essex police, we will now have 150 additional police officers on the streets in Essex, because we have been able to increase the police precept. Essex MPs were united in asking for the increase in the police precept. I am sure the Minister will be very glad to hear that a whole tranche of those new Essex police officers will hold their passing-out parade on Friday afternoon. We are very proud to see that decision actually turning into reality.

At the end of the summer, I spent a day and a night on patrol with my local police. While I have the Minister’s attention, I will mention some other items that I would like her to consider. The officers in my district alone did 172 stop and searches last month. They said that the power to stop and search is vital for tackling county lines and getting on top of the increase in violent crime. Stop and searches quite often result in the seizure of offensive weapons, such as the ones we have been discussing.

Break in Debate

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:28 p.m.

I am very grateful to the Minister. That is a really good step forward, and I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Delyn would like to comment.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:29 p.m.

I happily accept the Minister’s offer to revisit this with the trade unions and shop organisations. The reason why new clause 1 would cover only corrosives and knives is because that is the scope of the Bill; it should cover age-related products. I would welcome it if we can reflect on that, but I reserve the right to return to the matter in another place should the meeting not prove successful.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham - Hansard

I am not sure this is how these things often work on the Floor of the House, but this is a helpful way forward for all sides. I am grateful to the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman.

On that note, I have said all I want to say on new clause 16, which I think is good, and new clause 1, which will be taken away for consideration.

Leaving the EU: Rights of EU Citizens

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 5th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:30 p.m.

The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union have all made it very clear that there will be no removals of EU citizens; we want them to stay. They are welcome here and they play an important role not just in our communities, but in our health service, as the hon. Lady pointed out. The settled status scheme is open in its testing phase and we will open it fully in the new year, but it is really important that we convey a message to everyone that we want EU citizens to stay. Seeking to sow seeds of uncertainty and division is actually really unhelpful to them.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:30 p.m.

If Brexit happens and a British citizen marries an EU citizen in the future, will they be subject to income tests as non-EEA citizens are currently?

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:30 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman started his question with, “If Brexit happens”. Let me reassure him that Brexit is happening. Of course, the matters to which he refers will be set out in the future immigration system.

Offensive Weapons Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 27th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 1:55 p.m.

The Bill does not focus on drugs, but my hon. Friend has made an important point. It is clear from the evidence that we have seen at the Home Office that changes in the drugs market are a major factor in the rise in serious violence, not just in the UK but in other European countries and the United States. We want to take a closer look at the issue to establish whether more work can be done on it.

The Bill covers three main areas: acid attacks, knife crime, and the risks posed by firearms. We have consulted widely on these measures, and have worked closely with the police and others to ensure that we are giving them the powers that they need. The measures on corrosives will stop young people getting hold of particularly dangerous acids, the measures on online knife sales will stop young people getting hold of knives online, and the measures on the possession of offensive weapons will give the police the powers that they need to act when people are in possession of flick knives, zombie knives, and other particularly dangerous knives that have absolutely no place in our homes and communities. I believe that the Bill strengthens the law where that is most needed, and gives the police the tools that they need to protect the public.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 1:57 p.m.

I support the Bill—I do not want the Home Secretary to think otherwise—but may I make a point about clause 1? When it comes to refusing to sell goods to individuals, it is shop staff who will be on the front line, and it is shop staff who may be attacked or threatened as a result. Would the Home Secretary consider introducing, in Committee, an aggravated offence of attacks on shop staff? They, like everyone else, deserve freedom from fear.

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 1:57 p.m.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s support for the Bill. As he will understand, we want to restrict sales of these items in order to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, but he has made an interesting point about those who may feel that they are under some threat, particularly from the kind of people who would try to buy knives of this type in the first place. If he will allow me, I will go away and think a bit more about what he has said.

Break in Debate

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh - Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 2:39 p.m.

I heartily recommend that the hon. Lady reads the Home Office’s own analysis, which suggests that cuts to neighbourhood policing and early intervention have played a part in the rise of serious violence, but of course I accept that some excellent work is going on throughout the country. That is exactly the point I am making: we need a proper evidence-based analysis of that work to make sure that we roll out the successful pilots.

Let me turn to the possession and sale of corrosives. We welcome the move to clarify the law. In March, the Sentencing Council explicitly listed acid as a potentially dangerous weapon, but it is welcome that that is made clear in the legislation. Nevertheless, concerns remain about the lack of controls on reportable substances. We welcome the passing of secondary legislation to designate sulphuric acid as a reportable substance, but the time has come for a broader look at the two classes of poisons to determine which are causing harm and should therefore be subject to stricter controls.

The purpose of the legislation prior to the Deregulation Act 2015 was to allow the sale of commonly used products while protecting the individual from their inherent dangers. The sale of such poisons as hydrochloric, ammonia, hydrofluoric, nitric and phosphoric acids was restricted to retail pharmacies and to businesses whose premises were on local authorities’ lists of sellers. That situation was not perfect, but in considering reform we should note that the Poisons Board preferred a third option, between the previous system and what we have today, which would have designated as regulated all poisons listed as reportable substances, meaning that they could be sold only in registered pharmacies, with buyers required to enter their details.

The Government have conceded the point that some acids that are currently on open sale are dangerous and so should not be sold to under-18s. Schedule 1 lists hydrochloric acid and ammonia as two such examples, but we know that only one in five acid attacks are conducted by under-18s. That means that four in five attackers will be free to purchase reportable substances despite the clear evidence of harm. Of the 408 reported acid attacks, ammonia was used in 69 incidents. In the light of that, will the Government conduct a full review of the designation of reportable substances and bring forward regulations to re-designate those causing clear harm?

We note that the Government have failed to extend to corrosive substances the specific provisions on the possession of knives in schools. There can surely be no justification, beyond a reasonable defence, for the possession of corrosive substances on a school premises. If we are to send a message that the possession of corrosive substances will be treated with the same seriousness as the possession of knives, it should follow that the provisions that apply in respect of knives in schools are extended to acid.

On knife possession, the measures on remote sales and residential premises are important, but a cursory internet search demonstrates the easy availability of a wide range of weapons that are terrifying in their familiarity: knives disguised as credit cards and as bracelets; weapons designed with the explicit purpose to harm and to conceal. With the increasing use of such weapons and the widespread use of machetes in certain parts of the country, we wish to explore with the Government what further action can be taken to bear down on such pernicious weapons, and how apps and platforms on which such weapons are made readily available can be held to account.

As the Bill is considered in Committee, we wish to explore the concerns, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson) earlier, of retailers and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers about the offences imposed on retailers.

David Hanson Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 2:39 p.m.

As the chair of the USDAW group of MPs—I declare that interest—I welcome that commitment. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that the Home Secretary said that he will look into this issue. I hope that we can consider it on a cross-party basis to ensure that shop workers are free from fear and that regulations can be put in place to make sure that we defend those who will have to defend the Bill’s provisions on the frontline, in shops.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh - Hansard
27 Jun 2018, 2:43 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is a long-standing campaigner for the rights of shop workers and I echo his point about hoping that we can do this on a cross-party basis.

Concerns remain about the open sale of knives in smaller retail stores, which is an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft). Many of the larger stores have taken steps to secure knives in cabinets, but the fact that it is far too easy to steal knives from smaller stores renders much of the control of knife sales ineffective.

It was surprising to see that higher education institutions have been omitted from the extension of possession offences, given that they were considered in the consultation earlier this year. The justification that the Government gave for the proposal then was, I think, right, so I am interested to hear why higher education institutions have been omitted from the Bill.

On firearms, the laws in the UK are among the toughest in the world, but there is concern that restricted supply might be leading to the repurposing of obsolete firearms, meaning that law enforcement must be alive to the changing nature of firearms use. There has been a significant rise in the use of antique guns that have been repurposed to commit serious crime: 30% of the guns used in crime in 2015-16 were of obsolete calibre. The repurposing of handguns designed to fire gas canisters, and of imitation weapons, has grown in the past 10 years. We intend to press the Government on whether the laws surrounding decommissioned firearms, which are not subject to the Firearms Act 1968, need to be strengthened. The availability of firearms has been shown to be increasing through the legal-to-illegal route, so we very much support the Government’s proposals.

EU Settlement Scheme

David Hanson Excerpts
Thursday 21st June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes - Hansard
21 Jun 2018, 1:10 p.m.

I can always rely on my hon. Friend to ensure there is never any mischief from Corby. This is absolutely crucial. We have set out, both in previous announcements and commitments and today in our statement of intent, what we are seeking to do for EU citizens living here. I would like to reassure him that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I, when engaging with officials, leaders or ambassadors across the EU, are reiterating the point time and again about how important it is that UK citizens living in EU members states are extended the same rights and have it made clear to them how they should secure them.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
21 Jun 2018, 1:10 p.m.

Will the Minister provide clarity on EU citizens who are married to UK citizens, but who currently may not be resident in the UK? I have a number of constituents whose husbands or wives work abroad and the residency test is not always met. Will they have to apply through a new system to have residency at a future date if they are married to a British citizen?

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes - Parliament Live - Hansard

We are very conscious, where there are durable relationships of the type the right hon. Gentleman describes, that it is important that that is clearly affirmed for them. We have set out in detail in the rules how we are going to address those different situations, including where UK citizens are married to EU citizens who may be living abroad and where EU citizens living here may have non-EEA partners or spouses. They will have an extension of the rights set out in the withdrawal agreement and the statements we have previously made. We will, of course, be providing further detail in due course.

Rural Crime and Public Services

David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 6th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:24 p.m.

May I thank the Opposition for securing this very important debate? I answer, of course, as a Minister, but I hope you will forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I occasionally speak from the heart, as a constituency MP who represents one of the largest rural constituencies in England—a mere 531 square miles. I have the pleasure of serving my county alongside my hon. Friends the Members for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) and for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson). So, with respect to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), she does not need to tell us about the challenges of policing rural areas. In Louth and Horncastle, we have beautiful countryside—not just some of the richest farming countryside in the country, but the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire wolds and some of the most undeveloped, natural coastline in the country.

It is with that experience that I respond to the motion with interest. If I may say so, I think the Opposition have fallen into a trap in the first line of their motion, in which they refer to “rural crime”, because there is of course no definition of rural crime. The crimes that can be found in urban areas can also be found in rural areas. Indeed, I have just come from a very interesting debate in Parliament Street, run by the all-party groups on domestic abuse and on mental health, where we discussed exactly the point that domestic abuse knows no boundaries.

We are aware—looking across the House, I see there are some experts here—that modern slavery and human trafficking know no boundaries. These crimes are found in urban areas, but also in rural areas. Indeed, I commend Lincolnshire police for their extraordinary piece of investigative work last year in bringing together the largest ever modern slavery prosecution. It brought to justice the Rooney family, and nearly 100 years’ worth of imprisonment was delivered to the disgraceful defendants in that case.

We should not labour under the misapprehension that rural crime is different from urban crime, although it may manifest itself in different ways. However, there are of course particular types of crime that may have a unique effect in rural areas.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:26 p.m.

The Minister will know that some crimes are present only in rural areas. In my constituency, sheep worrying—dog attacks on sheep—is one example. The police do not record that centrally, in the Home Office, as a crime, and she cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and tell me the extent of sheep attacks in the United Kingdom.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:27 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because I was about to come on to that point. There are crimes that have a particular impact in rural areas, but I am saying that we should not confine our discussion to those crimes. Important though such crimes are, we must reflect on the fact that rural areas deserve support and attention when it comes to crimes that are also found in urban areas.

If I may, I will draw on the point about antisocial behaviour. Such behaviour might not be at the most serious end of the range, but nevertheless it may well have a hugely detrimental impact on local people. Families living in isolated homes may feel that they have been targeted precisely because they live in an isolated location. We know of examples of organised crime gangs targeting farms—for example, in my county, with fly-tipping.

Organised crime gangs are also working in consort across county boundaries to indulge in one of the cruellest crimes that can be committed against animals, which is hare coursing. I suggest that colleagues on both sides of the House may soon be addressing us on the issue of hare coursing. We know that criminal gangs are profiting from animal cruelty, with dogs that can be worth up to £50,000, depending on how large their betting rings are. This type of crime has similarities, in terms of exploitation, with types of crime in urban areas, but it has a unique impact in rural areas.

Break in Debate

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. One of the challenges to the police over the past few years has been to get warranted officers, who hold positions of responsibility after we have given them their warrant and training, to use their powers and specialist skills in accordance with their warrant. I am delighted that the figures show that constabularies across the country have made extraordinary improvements in using warranted officers in frontline policing. That means more officers on the beat or investigating crime, doing the job they signed up to do, rather than sitting in human resources departments and so on.

David Hanson Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:34 p.m.

Will the Minister confirm that it is not that central Government have increased police funding this year, but that local ratepayers in counties such as mine, Flintshire, and throughout rural areas in north Wales, have had their rates increased to meet central Government money that was cut?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:35 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that point. I was just about to explain the funding settlement, but I make the point that there is no such thing as Government money: it is taxpayers’ money. Whether our constituents pay it through income tax or council tax, the fact is that it is their money that we take from them to support our public services.

David Hanson Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:35 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 4:35 p.m.

If the right hon. Gentleman will please allow me, I will make a little progress. I shall deal with the funding settlement in some detail in a moment.

I was talking about transformation and technology, which is a really exciting area of policing. We have seen great innovation in recent years in how police forces can use technology to serve their communities and to use their specialist skillsets in the best possible ways. If I may, I must pay credit to my local police and crime commissioner, Marc Jones, a Conservative, who has purchased a drone for Lincolnshire police which, given the size of the county, is an invaluable tool for the local constabulary. Lincolnshire police have used the drone for a variety of reasons, including to locate missing people—one can imagine the difference that such an investment can make in a very rural area—as well as to help with hare coursing investigations, in which a drone can make such a difference.

Break in Debate

Mr Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:40 p.m.

I agree. How we slice the cake is certainly a topic to which we can return. I find myself in an interesting situation, because part of Cleveland is an urban community and part of it is a rural community. It is certainly important, as a matter of principle, that we have a funding settlement that is fair to all parts of our society.

I want to look at the positive things that are going on, and there are some very positive things going on in Cleveland. I want to congratulate Cleveland police today on opening its recruitment drive. It aims to significantly increase the number of special constables from the current number of about 50 to more than 200. That is a great tribute to our new chief constable, Mike Veale, but it is also a tribute to the police and crime commissioner for allowing it to happen; I welcome, on a cross-party basis, his decision to do so.

I think that lots of people in East Cleveland will want to take up the opportunity to serve as a special constable. I have heard lots of enthusiasm from people who want to serve their communities and who know them well, which means they can establish a bond and will be likely to be able to identify problems before they arise and tackle them decisively. I hope that any constituents listening to the debate will proceed to the Cleveland police website and look at the recruitment process.

A huge amount can also be done through sensible reform. I have met our new chief constable, and he has talked about things such as greater use of technology, so that officers are not obligated to return to station every time there has been an incident and write it up, but can do so while out on the beat, and flattening the force structure. The chief constable has been talking about removing certain ranks from the force structure, to free up more funding for constables who will be out on the beat. It is the sergeants and constables who so often make a real difference on the ground by extending availability of cover. That is an extremely healthy mindset and something that I hope we will see progress on in the years ahead.

There is an opportunity to restore confidence to communities such as Loftus and Brotton. I am holding a series of meetings in those two villages this Friday with the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner precisely to try to identify how, while recognising the financial realities, we can deliver a better balance of policing between the urban and rural areas of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:44 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

I represent a constituency in north Wales, which has a number of urban areas but is also significantly rural, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) said. We have something like 700,000 people in north Wales, spread over 6,000-plus sq km. It is a drive of 82 miles from one end of north Wales to the other, and it would take me 20 miles by 10 miles to cover my constituency. It is a big rural area represented by Members of Parliament in the House today. We have six counties in the North Wales police force area, and we have two languages—Welsh and English—because of the area’s history.

We have an influx of tourists each year, which doubles the population in the key summer months. That brings its own challenges, as my hon. Friend said, such as increased traffic problems, more deaths on roads and an increase in the number of events that need policing. We have individuals who occasionally drink too much on holiday and cause difficulties, and we have increased crime in the summer months. Those challenges are by no means and by no stretch of the imagination the ones facing central London or the inner cities, but they are interesting challenges that need to be addressed by the Government as part of the rural crime debate. We border the two metropolitan areas of Merseyside and Manchester, which have significant crime challenges, such as the promotion of drug and other criminal activity, which are very often transferred to areas of north Wales. We have to be aware of all those issues.

I approach this debate in the light of those challenges for north Wales. We are an area of moderate or reasonably low crime, but I bring to the House the fact that in the past 12 to 15 months crime has significantly increased. I listened with some interest to Members who have seen crime fall in their area. We must remember that this is against a backdrop of having 20,000 fewer officers across the whole of the United Kingdom since I had the honour of being the police Minister in the Home Office. There has been a 6% drop in police numbers—100 fewer officers—in my North Wales police force area, but over the past 18 months there has been a 13% increase in recorded crime in north Wales. The number of murders is at a seven-year high. Shop theft has risen, and it is estimated that its cost is over £128,000 a year in my constituency. Theft from buildings and properties has risen by 37% in the past year and violent crime is up by 21%, with domestic burglary up by 38% across the board.

I accept that this brings many challenges, and I know for a fact that North Wales police officers are doing a sterling job—they are concerned to drive crime down, and they want to do more—but the chief constable himself has said that we face a £2.1 million cut next year because of reduced funding from central Government. It is all very well to talk, as we did earlier, about taxpayers’ money, but central Government money comes from everybody, with the richest and the poorest in our society paying it through direct taxation, while the rises for local rate payers, who are now the source of funding needed to maintain the police service—we have had a significant 5% rise in north Wales—come from everybody, rich and poor, in north Wales entirely on the basis of their property, even though a council tax increase raises less in our area than it would, for example, here in Westminster. There is a funding issue, and it has been well rehearsed.

I support the proposal made from the Front Bench by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) to increase police force numbers by about 10,000. That will not get us back to where we were when I did the job, but it would still be a significant increase and it would help to support the thin blue line in north Wales. There are now 1,300 police officers in north Wales, but we must remember that, although they are at work for eight hours in any one day, they are asleep for eight hours and they are off for eight hours, while some are off sick and some are on holiday so, recognising that as a whole, it is an extremely thin blue line.

Crime in urban areas is very important, and antisocial behaviour and a range of other issues do affect my constituency, but there are specific issues of rural crime, which this debate is about, and I want to draw the Minister’s attention to one in particular. I congratulate him on his elevation to the Front Bench, where I know he will do a good job. He represents a north-west constituency that has rural areas, and he comes to my constituency on occasion, so he will know it is a rural one. He has it within his gift today to take action, in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in support of the North Wales police rural unit in tackling sheep attacks and sheep worrying.

The Minister needs to know that in north Wales, and I pay tribute to North Wales police for this, we have a specific unit to deal with rural crime. It deals not just with attacks on sheep, but with attacks on birds, badger baiting and the enforcement of the fox hunting and hare coursing legislation, as well as fly-tipping and the rural issues of metal theft, tractor theft and all such crimes. Its officers do so in a specific and targeted way, dealing with the impact of those crimes, but also working to prevent them by visiting agricultural shows, talking to farmers and coming to farmers markets. They provide information to support the prevention of crime, which is a great use of policing time, rather than just dealing with the criminal activity itself.

The head of the unit, Rob Taylor, and its officers have brought to my attention the vital issue of sheep worrying. I want to put it on the Minister’s agenda because he can make a difference today by saying that he will act on it. Sheep worrying in my north Wales constituency has resulted in 648 dead animals in the past year. Farmers have shot 52 dogs because they were sheep worrying. There have been 449 livestock attacks. Damage to sheep and livestock has cost farmers thousands of pounds. Farmers in Lixwm in my constituency have experienced two attacks in 48 hours.

Why do I say that the Minister can take action? There are some clear things he can do, so let me put them on the record. I know those figures because North Wales police have kept a record of those attacks. At present, attacks on livestock in general—not just sheep—are not a recordable offence across the United Kingdom. The Home Office could make that a recordable offence so that we know how many attacks have taken place and where, and the extent of the problem.

The Government also need to address the fact that the police have no powers to seize dogs that undertake attacks. The fine for irresponsible dog owners whose dogs attack sheep is £1,000, but that does not even cover the cost of dead sheep following attacks on some of my constituents’ farms, and no compensation is paid to people who lose sheep as a result of criminal activity. It is very difficult to get sheep insurance if there has already been an attack. Finally, no disqualification order is applied to the owner of a dog that attacks sheep and kills perhaps 10 or 15 of them, as has happened on some of the farms in my constituency.

It is in the gift of the Minister to address those issues. He could make it a recordable offence, increase the fine, give the police powers to seize dogs legally, and give disqualification orders to dog owners whose dogs misbehave in a way that causes carnage, increased costs and damage.

The all-party parliamentary group on animal welfare, ably led by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), has produced an excellent report on those issues which has been submitted to DEFRA. The Minister could indicate today that he will look at the issues. Although that would not increase police numbers or necessarily reduce crime in my urban areas, which is still a severe issue, or prevent murders linked to county line issues and other drug offences, it could help, in a small way, to support the efforts of the North Wales police rural unit to tackle sheep worrying and sheep crime. Many people think it is a frivolous crime, but it comes at a cost.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling - Parliament Live - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:53 p.m.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Hanson Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:53 p.m.

I was about to finish, but I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:53 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and I am sorry for interrupting just as he was finishing. Does he think it might be helpful to reintroduce a form of licensing or registration for dogs so that we know where they are and who owns them?

David Hanson Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:11 p.m.

There are a range of issues and that could certainly be looked at. In the immediate term, however, although my force records the crimes, we do not know how many animal attacks there are against livestock in Essex, for example, because the police are not required to record them. Recording them would be a start, and increasing the fine and allowing the police to disqualify dog owners are other major proposals. Important though I think other issues are, none of those proposals would be a major expenditure item for the police or for DEFRA. I hope they would act as a deterrent and help tackle this particular crime, which has caused mayhem in my constituency. They have the support of North Wales police. If I can have extra police, I will take them, and if we can deal with urban crime, I will take that, but the Minister has it in his gift to address those issues and I hope he will seriously consider doing so today.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 5:54 p.m.

Order. If everyone takes around seven minutes, everyone who wishes to speak will have an opportunity to do so. If they do not, I will have to impose a time limit. Let us try to be co-operational.

Oral Answers to Questions

David Hanson Excerpts
Monday 4th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 2:58 p.m.

I reassure my hon. Friend that we are helping the police to respond to the changing demand that he mentions with the extra £460 million overall. Many PCCs have made a commitment to increase frontline policing. Gloucestershire has received a £3.6 million increase this year and I am sure that that will help. In addition, I will prioritise more police resources in the next spending review.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2018, 2:59 p.m.

The Metropolitan police estimates that police officers in London alone are owed 200,000 rest days. How many are owed across the country as a whole?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Metropolitan police does a fantastic job and its officers are incredibly dedicated. Over the past few weeks that I have been in this role I have had the opportunity to meet many of them. We must ensure that they have the resources they need. That is why the Metropolitan police received a record increase in the recent financial settlement, which has been welcomed.