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Retail Crime

Volume 741: debated on Thursday 30 November 2023

6. What assessment she has made with Cabinet colleagues of the potential impact of retail crime on high street businesses. (900373)

The Government are clear that violent and abusive behaviour towards any public-facing worker is never acceptable, and we recognise the implications that such incidents can have on businesses as well as victims. On 23 October, the Government launched a retail crime action plan, which includes a commitment to prioritise police attendance at the scene where violence has been used towards shop staff, where an offender has been detained by store security or where evidence needs to be secured by police personnel. The Government also launched Project Pegasus, a unique private-public partnership that will radically improve the way retailers are able to share intelligence with the police.

In recent weeks, I, like many colleagues, have visited shops in my constituency as part of USDAW’s—the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—Freedom from Fear campaign. I have heard from staff about the daily levels of verbal and sometimes physical abuse they face, and the huge losses from theft. Will the Minister say more about what the Government are doing to stem that tide of lawlessness, particularly for independent retailers who may not be part of the Pegasus Project? Will she also say how much is being lost to theft, because that costs all of us as customers, as well as costing retailers?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. This is not a victimless crime; it impacts shops, workers and customers. Credit is due to the hon. Gentleman for visiting the shops in his constituency. Overall crime is down by 54% since 2010, and down by 10% since last year. However, he is right that shoplifting is up, which is why the action plan is so important. The action plan works for our high streets because it is about ensuring that the police are determined to collect evidence and to go after repeat offenders and organised gangs.

Project Pegasus is key because it is a public-private partnership. We have created an extra offence, with a longer sentence, for those who are violent towards a shop worker. With those extra programmes of work and evidence collection, more people will be convicted, so those who are involved in crime against shops will spend some time in prison.