HC Deb 26 July 1971 vol 822 cc14-6
13. Mr. John Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation making it mandatory upon supermarkets to instal warning signs at exit points, reminding customers of the need to check their shopping bags for unpaid articles.

Sir J. Eden

I am sure that individual managements will wish to consider this suggestion. The Home Office have already arranged that problems related to the internal security of shops be studied.

Mr. Hannam

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I am pleased to hear that a study is taking place. There is increasing evidence that large numbers of housewives are being prosecuted for shiplifting offences when there turns out to be little evidence of intent to steal. Does not he agree that supermarkets could do more to assist housewives by displaying visual signs and by the installation of cloakrooms for the deposit of shopping bags in order to alleviate this kind of incident, which puts a blight on the rest of a woman's life?

Sir J. Eden

I understand that, but my hon. Friend will understand that pilferage is a serious problem for shop managements and that it must be for them to take and vary measures designed to deter and detect pilferage as may seem appropriate.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great concern felt at the large number of people who are wrongfully prosecuted for shoplifting? This is a matter of great importance to the individual shopper, because it is so easy at the moment to make a mistake. In the circumstances, will he tell the House who are conducting the study, who are on the board doing the study and when the study will be concluded?

Sir J. Eden

Questions about the adequacy of the law and penalties relating to shoplifting are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. As I said, a working party of the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention is currently examining various aspects of internal security in shops, including shoplifting. The working party will be taking into account the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. John Hannam) and by others concerning the display of warning signs in the shops.

Mr. Adley

While appreciating that this is an enormous problem of concern to the shops, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is aware that I have been trying for months to get some kind of sense, if I may say so, out of various Government Departments as to who is responsible for dealing with this problem? Is he aware that one is transferred from the Home Office to the Attorney-General to the Department of Trade and Industry. It is no use leaving it to the stores themselves because—relating this point to the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. John Hannam)—the National Association of Multiple Grocers has written to me, in response to suggestions I made about visual signs, saying, in vain is the snare set in sight of the birds. The shopkeepers are more concerned with catching people than with prevention. What is my hon. Friend doing about it?

Sir J. Eden

As my hon. Friend will have heard from earlier replies, this matter is being studied very carefully. The Standing Committee on Crime Prevention at the Home Office is looking into this specific question and will take account of the suggestions which have been made. I am certain that all hon. Members will agree that these are matters much more for advice than regulation and that it is primarily a matter for the shopkeepers concerned.

Forward to