HC Deb 10 June 2002 vol 386 cc592-3
9. Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

What representations his Department has received from the British Retail Consortium about tackling crime against retailers. [57055]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

We appreciate the input that the British Retail Consortium makes to tackling retail crime. We have received a number of representations from the consortium in the past year and we are in regular touch with it at both ministerial and official level.

My hon. Friend does a lot of work for and on behalf of the consortium, so she will know that the Home Office is providing £170 million for closed circuit television initiatives, £50 million for communities against drugs and £15 million in grants to retailers in deprived areas to enhance security. Other measures will inform retailers of how better to protect themselves against crime.

Barbara Follett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and for all the work that he is doing on behalf of retailers. However, given the importance of the reduction of retail crime in Government programmes for social cohesion and urban regeneration, why is the reduction in retail crime not yet one of the official police force performance indicators?

Mr. Ainsworth

I think that my hon. Friend knows that, after consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities, we cut the number of performance indicators. We would be loth to add to them. I think that she also appreciates that there is a problem of under-reporting of crime in this sector, and that might undermine the value of a performance indicator. However, she is right about the importance of tackling retail crime and about its connection with social exclusion and community cohesion. I assure her that we will continue to work with the consortium to bear down on the problem.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)

My constituency contains the west end of London, one of the largest retail areas in the UK. Retailers to whom I have spoken and Westminster city council have welcomed the idea of working in partnership with the police force so that street wardens ensure that, as far as possible, retail crime is kept to an absolute minimum. Will the Minister be looking to drive that initiative forward not only in the centre of London but in other centres that are important in terms of their retail excellence?

Mr. Ainsworth

We have found a Conservative in favour of street wardens, and I am quite surprised by that. We are looking at all kinds of issues and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to support those covered by the Police Reform Bill. We are also constantly talking to the British Retail Consortium about specific issues and are keeping them under review to see how we can help. However, there is much that retailers can do themselves, so responsibility for bearing down on retail crime does not lie all on the Government's side.