WORCESTER'S surging shops have been praised in the House of Commons - with a Government minister saying he is "delighted" to hear how well the city is faring.

Business, innovation and skills minister Matthew Hancock used a parliamentary debate on the future of Britain's shops to praise the city for its strong retail performance.

As your Worcester News revealed last week, December saw record footfall in the city as the number of shoppers surged 13 per cent year-on-year.

The data came at the end of a bumper 2014 in which vacancy rates were the second best performing across the West Midlands, with only Solihull faring better.

Worcester MP Robin Walker welcomed the city's retail performance in the commons, hailing December's "ringing of the tills", which drew congratulations from Mr Hancock.

Mr Walker also mentioned the £1,500 discount in business rates, which is coming into place from April to help traders suffering from the increase in online shopping.

He also told the minister he wants to see the Government's promised review of business rates make a difference.

Mr Walker said: "The ringing of tills, especially among small independent shops, should always be welcome in this nation of shopkeepers.

"In the last week of December Worcester’s high street saw a 13 per cent increase in footfall - that is very welcome.

"Small shops in Worcester are also looking forward to the £1,500 discount to business rates this year.

"May I urge the minister, as the Government considers further reform to business rates to ensure small businesses continue to benefit."

Mr Hancock said: "I am delighted to hear of that improvement in Worcester, which is no doubt in part, though not all, down to the work of (Mr Walker).

"Business rates raise revenue and revenue is necessary, but the review has to ensure that they work better.

"The £1,500 discount for retailers is a step forward, but this is a major opportunity to improve the way the tax works."

In the week starting Sunday, December 28 footfall was up a staggering 13.5 per cent compared to the same week last year, while the previous week it was up 6.8 per cent.

Data for the week starting Sunday, December 14 reveals a 7.8 per cent increase compared to the same period of 2013, while the previous week it was also up by 3.1 per cent.

Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents the shops, believed an extra-early start to the January sales, the city's growing reputation for leisure, and 'Black Friday' were among the reasons for the boost.