My hon. Friend is right to ask that question. Shops are the lifeblood of our local communities, and shopkeepers should be free to go about their business without fear. My hon. Friend is, of course, a tireless campaigner on this issue.
Shoplifting is covered by section 1 of the Theft Act 1968. It is triable either way, in a Crown court or a magistrates court, and carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
Can the Minister assure me that not only his own Department but the Home Office take retail crime, particularly shop crime, seriously? There is a feeling in the trade that what is sometimes referred to as low-level crime is not taken seriously at all, which, of course, just encourages it.
Once again, my hon. Friend has made a very good point. The Policing Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), is present, and will have heard it. One of the issues on which the extra 20,000 police officers will focus is exactly the one to which he has referred—the need to ensure that our shopkeepers are kept safe and that, when crimes are committed against them, the crimes are investigated thoroughly and those responsible are prosecuted.