I am pleased to have secured this Adjournment debate to raise the worrying and growing issue of criminal attacks on shop staff. Thousands of workers in my constituency and some 2.7 million people across the country are employed in the retail sector. So it is right that we address the risks and abuse that they face.
I know that the Home Office does not collect specific statistics on attacks on shop workers, but the number of thefts from shops is on the rise. In the West Midlands police force area, the number of recorded offences rose by 12 per cent. in the past two years, from 17,891 incidents in 1999–2000 to just over 20,000 thefts in 2001–02.
The retail crime survey published by the British Retail Consortium gives an idea of the number of attacks on shop staff. Last year, it found that 20,000 staff were physically assaulted in 2001—a 40 per cent. increase in just over a year. Some 28,000 staff were threatened, 68,000 were verbally abused and many more incidents go unreported. Staff in small and medium-sized retail outlets such as garages, newsagents and off-licences continue to be more susceptible to attack. The BRC found that 12 in every 1,000 staff in the small and medium-sized enterprise sector were subject to physical violence compared with seven per 1,000 staff for larger retailers. Small stores are less likely to have security measures, such as CCTV and in-store guards, but more likely to have staff working on their own, often late at night.
Last year, a young manager at the Lidl supermarket in the Hamstead area of my constituency was viciously and violently attacked by a man with a baseball bat. Like thousands of shop staff across the country, he was working late at night with no security or support.