Bill to protect the protectors

Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth.
Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth.

Friday is the first of 13 sitting days in which backbench MPs have a chance to change the law through Private Members’ Bills.

The first one up is Chris Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, previously a campaign by Holly Lynch MP, of which I was a supporter.

Chris Bryant’s Bill seeks to give greater protection to emergency workers – to ‘Protect the Protectors’.

It will introduce a new offence of wounding or assaulting an emergency worker in the performance of her or his duty and introduce tougher sentences.

It will also require assailants who spit at emergency workers to undergo a health test or risk committing an offence by refusing to do so.

There is a clear need for this change to the law, with an attack on police officers on average every 22 minutes, and nearly 300 assaults on healthcare professionals every day.

The Bill also seeks to protect other ‘999’ workers including firefighters, ambulance workers and RNLI crews.

The Bill has widespread support from trades unions like GMB and Unison, and the Police Federation and the Prison Officers’ Association.

It stands a good chance of getting through at least its early stages, though some in government, for reasons known only to themselves, fear “sentencing inflation”.

We are in debt to our emergency workers, who have endured years of cuts and a pay cap.

This is a start in repaying that debt.