“I would pay for formula to be stolen by a desperate mother in a store”

Sir Keir Starmer said if he saw a mother trying to shoplift baby formula he would offer to pay for it.

The question was put to the Labor leader by Big Issue, which also asked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Scottish First Minister John Swinney what they would do in this scenario.

This follows reports of an increase in shoplifting and other criminal offenses following the cost-of-living crisis, which has led to high inflation and sharp rises in the prices of essential goods. need.

The price of infant formula has reached “historically high” levels, with some supermarkets placing safety labels on products and the Competition and Markets Authority launching a market study to help consumers.

Asked what he would do if he saw someone trying to steal baby formula, Starmer told the Big Issue: “I would offer to pay for it. The desperation of families across the country should not be shame on the conservatives.”

Learn more:

Conservative leader Sunak said: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, and we will always support traders to prevent theft. At the same time, we will continue to help parents cope with the cost of living. »

Liberal Democrat leader Davey said: “I would try to persuade (the parent) not to do it, obviously… Try to find them other help, that would be the best way to do it. »

Meanwhile, SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said: “I would quietly offer to pay for the formula because no parent should ever have to face this situation… Unfortunately, this It’s not hypothetical – I meet my constituents and the people. across Scotland, every week, who are facing these kinds of difficulties.

Police-recorded shoplifting offenses in England and Wales have reached their highest level in 20 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some 402,482 offenses were recorded in the year to September 2023, an increase of almost a third (32%) compared to 304,459 in the previous 12 months.

A survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimates this figure even higher, reporting a record 16.7 million shoplifting incidents in 2023.

The trade association’s claim that only 36% of retail crime is reported to the police, along with additional data from Scotland, could explain the discrepancy with the ONS figures.

Survey respondents suggested that pressures caused by the cost of living crisis could encourage people to steal several items at a time instead of just one or two.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with representatives of the night-time economy in central London, while campaigning for the general election.  Photo date: Saturday June 22, 2024.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with representatives of the night-time economy in central London, while campaigning for the general election.  Photo date: Saturday June 22, 2024.

“We will always support traders to prevent theft,” Rishi Sunak said. (Alamy)

A recent report from the London School of Economics (LSE) shows a clear link between a 10% increase in the cost of living and an increase in violence, armed robbery, shoplifting, burglary and flights over the past year.

The study highlights previous academic literature that suggests a link between economic hardship and crime, although it recognizes that the relationship is complex and multifaceted.

The study found that with a 10% increase in the cost of living, there was an 8% increase in crime, including burglaries and thefts, as well as some violent offenses.

However, the study emphasizes that while there appears to be a correlation between the cost of living and these crimes, it is not causation.

The study found that some crimes, including anti-social behavior offenses, had decreased and there was an overall decrease of 2.4% in calls to the police.

Referencing the March 2024 study as he called on the Government to tackle the root causes of crime head-on, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The causes of crime are complex. But the general formula is quite simple: too much inequality and too little opportunity breeds crime.

“This is not – and should never be – a justification for criminal behavior. If you break the law, of course you must pay the consequences. Nor does it imply that everyone living in poverty turn to criminal behavior.

“But if we sincerely want to make our city safer, we need to take crime prevention seriously. That starts with recognizing that no one wakes up in the morning and – out of nowhere – hurts another person with a knife or steals. a car… joins a criminal gang or breaks into someone’s house The countdown starts long before the crime is committed.

In January 2024, Police Minister Chris Philp said inflation was “no excuse” for people to resort to crime, telling Sky News: “We have a very generous benefits system. We spend well over £100 billion a year on benefits for people of working age. They increased by 10% in April this year.

“They will increase by another six or seven percent in April. The national minimum wage will increase by 10 percent. There is no excuse for any criminal activity, including shoplifting.”

However, according to Big Issue, his claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Universal Credit claimants were on average £35 a week short of the money they needed for essentials like food and heating, according to research from the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The findings, based on conservative estimates, revealed that a single person needs around £120 a week to cover basic needs before housing costs, but would only receive £85 a week through Universal Credit.

Benefits were set to increase by 6.7% under measures announced in April, although 180,000 claimants working less than half a week full-time will have to look for more work to try to keep people off the line. welfare.

Your guide to voting

The leaders