HC Deb 23 February 2004 vol 418 c6
3. Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on the role of shopwatch schemes in Warrington in combating retail crime. [1557451]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department(Caroline Flint)

The Home Office has provided more than £29,000 to assist retailers in the Warrington area, half of it to provide walkie-talkie radios for the Fearnhead and Poulton shopwatch project. There has been a 41 per cent. reduction in thefts from shops involved in that partnership. I congratulate my hon. Friend and those involved in the scheme.

Helen Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that she will agree with me that one of the scheme's main benefits is the protection and security that it provides for those who work in shops, and I therefore invite her to respond positively to the "Freedom from Fear" campaign run by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—USDAW—by looking at how such schemes can be extended and how further funding can be provided. Given that she has said that she would like to visit my local scheme, may I ask for her good offices in securing an early date for that visit so that she can see how well it is working, and discuss with the local police how it could be extended?

Caroline Flint

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Violence against shop workers is very worrying, and USDAW has played an enormously important part in bringing that issue to public attention. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary attended a conference organised by USDAW last year, and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) is involved in the issue. My hon. Friend the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety has met representatives of USDAW, and Baroness Scotland is due to meet the general secretary of USDAW very shortly. We are working with retailers and employees' representatives to try to deal with the situation, which is totally unacceptable. That is why we are putting £900,000 into creating a national association to develop more partnerships on the ground, as extensions of those that we have already funded.