Wed, 08 Nov 2017
Chris Bryant has called on his fellow MPs to help strengthen the proposed legislation to safeguard emergency service workers from assault.
Rhondda MP Mr Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) private members bill, received enthusiastic cross party support at its second reading in the House of Commons on 20 October. It will now be scrutinised line-by-line by parliamentarians on 15 November.
A committee has been appointed by Mr Bryant for this task, made up of MPs who spoke in the debate. It comprises Conservatives Victoria Atkins, Stephen Crabb, Huw Merriman, Wendy Morton, Nusrat Ghani, Tom Pursglove and Kelly Tolhurst, Labour MPs Ruth Cadbury, Chris Elmore, Jim Fitzpatrick, Gerald Jones and long standing supporter of the campaign, Holly Lynch. Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru, policing minister Nick Hurd and his Labour shadow Louise Haigh, as well as Mr Bryant himself complete the committee.
Mr Bryant said: “The Bill is now in the Committee stages where we will consider it line by line. There are a number of changes I want to see, for example to include provisions for more NHS staff and to ensure that those who work in the courts, who put the defendants in the dock are protected. Secondly, I am keen that there is no loophole of when somebody is acting in their function as an emergency worker or not.”
The Bill would make assaulting a police officer or other emergency services worker into an aggravated offence punishable by one year in prison. It also makes it an offence for those who create a health risk by spitting at an emergency services worker, to refuse to provide a blood sample.
Three dates have been proposed for the Bill to considered by Committee – 15, 22 and 29 November. After this it would return to the Commons for a third reading in the New Year and begin its passage through the Lords. If all goes well it would be on the statute books by September 2018.
Emphasising government support for the Bill, Sam Gyimah, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation, said: “We want the Bill to get on the statue books as soon as possible. This year we have seen our brave police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, in lots of very testing situations, take Grenfell and PC Keith Palmer outside the Commons. The timetabling is down to the business managers of the House but we all recognise that Parliament, every side of the House, is behind this – we want to get it done.”
PFEW Vice-Chair Calum Macleod said: “This legislation is of the utmost importance to emergency service workers, among them many thousands of brave police men and women who go to work to uphold the values of decent society are sick of being treated as punch bags. This is not part of our role and we need Parliament and the courts to send a clear signal that this will no longer be tolerated. This is a critical phase of the bill and we will continue to work with supportive MPs as well our partners at Unison, Royal College of Nursing, British Transport Police Federation and the Prison Officers Association to achieve the change our members need.”
© 2017 Police Federation of England & Wales