The government has last week rejected an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that would have made it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse a retail worker.
Tabled by Labour MP Alex Norris, shadow policing minister, the amendment has been voted down by the Public Bill Committee of the House of Common on January 30, after Home Office minister Chris Philp said the government would not accept the new clause ‘at the moment’.
Philp, however, added the government is open to stricter legislation in future if it is found necessary to tackle the issue.
“We want to push operationally on this issue … and we are certainly willing to keep an eye on it. If a case is made that tightening up the law is necessary to address the serious problems in this area, then I would not categorically rule that out in the future,” he said.
Moving the amendment, which is similar to the legislation passed in Scotland, Norris has noted that ‘this is a when, not an if, moment’.
“This legislation is here, and we should take this opportunity. We will continue to push this at every stage. If the government will not do this, we will fight tooth and nail to get the opportunity to do so ourselves,” he said.
In his response, Philp highlighted the measures taken by the government such as the retail crime action plan, which contained several important commitments from the police, adding that the government will have meetings every three months of the retail crime steering group to hold the police to account for delivering the action plan that they have signed up to.
Later, writing in his weekly newsletter, Norris said the Labour Party would bring in the legislation if elected to power in the general election.
“Shop workers across the country are facing this onslaught day in, day out so it is right that we protect them. Sadly, yet again the government blocked this change from happening by voting down the proposal on Tuesday. However, Labour is steadfastly committed to this proposal and if elected we will make this change in law,” he said.