I very much welcome this question from my hon. Friend, who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on retail crime, which recently launched a report on this very subject. I can assure him that we take retail crime very seriously. I am co-chair of the National Retail Crime Steering Group with the British Retail Consortium, which brings together retailers and the police to understand the challenge and take effective action.
I thank the Minister for her reply, but she will be aware of growing concern among retailers about levels of both physical and verbal abuse. Will she do something to ensure that police across the country prioritise this issue sufficiently? Retailers are worried that different areas receive a different response from the different forces.
Let us be absolutely clear: violence or verbal abuse of any kind is simply not acceptable for any workforce in our country. I shall take this issue forward through the national steering group, and will draw particularly on the very effective work that has been done between the police and forecourt retailers, where we put in place measures that are really improving police response around the country.
On that very point, the Minister will know that as well as seeing an increase of crime carried out on shop workers, we have also seen under-reporting of that crime. Will she urge businesses to encourage their employees to support the campaign of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers on freedom from fear and indeed to report these crimes?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an incredibly important point, and we very much work alongside USDAW on the national steering group that I mentioned. I absolutely back up his call that everybody should report crime. There are some excellent initiatives in town centres all over the country through which businesses and the police are working well together to ensure that such an increase in reporting happens.