The Offensive Weapons Bill tightens the law on the sale of corrosive substances and knives in response to a significant increase in acid attacks and stabbings. Usdaw is calling on the Government to provide greater protection for shopworkers who will enforce the new law at the point of sale.
In the opening remarks from the opposition, Lord Tunnicliffe (Labour) said:
“The Bill creates a number of statutory duties for shopworkers who sell objects that can be used as weapons. We can expect those performing these duties in shops to encounter individuals who choose to threaten or, worse, attack them for acting responsibly. We must ensure that shopworkers have the utmost protection under the law.”
During the debate, Lord Lucas (Conservative) said:
“I very much support what Lord Tunnicliffe, said at the instigation of Usdaw. In the Bill, we are putting immense obligations on individual shopworkers. The Government owe a serious duty to couriers and shopworkers to lay out exactly what procedures they expect their bosses to put in place, so that they can know as they go about their perfectly ordinary business what level of protection they will have if they behave in a specified way.”
In closing remarks from the opposition, Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour and Co-operative Party)
“I am aware that colleagues in the other place and Usdaw representatives met with the Government, and we hope for some good news from the Government during the Bill’s passage to improve protections for shop workers, because we expect shop workers in effect to police and enforce the law. That will include the new proposals we are debating, but we are not presently adding new protections for them. The issue has rightly been raised that shopworkers can be prosecuted for selling these products, but there is no corresponding offence of buying them. Again, that needs to be looked at. I hope we can come back to that in Committee and on Report.”
Closing the debate on behalf of the Government, Home Office Minister Baroness Williams (Conservative) said:
“There was <in the debate>
a lot of support for shopworkers and I totally understand where that point is coming from. Noble Lords pointed out that shopworkers are not only under strain but are intimidated by some customers. They asked how we can afford greater protection to those workers. The Government continue to consider the case for a bespoke offence relating to assaults on retail staff. Last month my ministerial colleague the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime hosted a round-table meeting attended by David Hanson MP, Richard Graham MP and representatives from the British Retail Consortium, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. It was a very productive meeting and we are currently considering how best to proceed.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“We welcome the cross-party support for our proposals for the protection of shopworkers have received from Peers and we look forward to seeing what the Government will bring forward as the Bill passes through the House of Lords.
“Shopworkers will play a vital role in policing the sale of knives and corrosive substances, as they already do on the sale of alcohol and other age-restricted products. Yet they are offered no additional protection under the law and shopworkers can be treated like criminals if a mistake is made at the point of sale.
“It is absolutely right that we do everything possible to stem the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks. Shopworkers are on the frontline of achieving that and helping to keep our communities safe. Their role should be valued, they deserve our respect, but most of all they deserve the protection of the law.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
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