Thank you for contacting me about protections for retail workers.
This is an issue that I take incredibly seriously, and I am deeply concerned by cases of violence on the high street, particularly in retail premises. Those who work on the high street should be able to go about their work without fear of abuse and intimidation. Quite simply, retailers should not see abuse as part of the job.
As someone who worked for many years in retail and in other public-facing sectors, I do appreciate the strength of feeling behind the calls for the Government to legislate in this area through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Consequently, I have co-sponsored and will be voting for an amendment to the PCSC Bill that creates a specific offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing retail workers in the course of their work with accompanying penalties. It is an unfortunate fact that the scale and intensity of the threats and violence endured by retail workers are such that this amendment is needed.
I very much hope that this addition to the PCSC Bill will form part of the overall strategy for tackling this distressing problem.
It was a positive step forward when Ministers announced a call for evidence to provide a greater understanding of the scale of the issue.
In response to the call for evidence, the Government has recognised that there are issues that need to be dealt with, and I am encouraged by the Government's robust response. This includes working with the National Retail Crime Steering Group (NRCSG) on a best practice guide to support staff in reporting these crimes, strengthening and making full use of existing laws, and improving data sharing between businesses and the police.
More broadly, I understand that police demand is changing and becoming increasingly complex and it is the first priority of government to protect the public. As such, the Government has a key responsibility to ensure Police and Crime Commissioners have the necessary funding to keep communities safe.
The clear commitment made by the Prime Minister to put more officers back on our streets is an important step forward. Boris Johnson made it clear in his first speech on the steps of Downing Street that making our streets safer is a key priority. You may be pleased to know that nearly 9000 police officers have been recruited since the Government launched its 20,000 new officers by March 2023 recruitment drive.
I recognise that the violence and abuse that shop workers can face can have a significant impact, not only physically but mentally and emotionally, and we must ensure that all the action being taken enables shop workers to feel safer.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP