I understand the concerns that have been raise about the strength, scope and effectiveness of existing legislation protecting emergency service workers, and I am aware of a Private Members' Bill - the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) bill - that has been introduced to Parliament seeking to strengthen the law around this issue.
I support this Bill and I am pleased that it passed its Second Reading unopposed in the House of Commons on 20th October 2017.
The Bill proposes to introduce new offences protecting all emergency service workers, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and nurses. Indeed, while there were 24,000 assaults on police officers across England and Wales last year, there were also over 70,000 reported physical assaults against NHS staff in 2015/16. I therefore believe it is right that they receive better legal protection.
Our emergency service workers do a brilliant job and their safety must be paramount. I believe the tougher sentences in the Bill will send a message that we will never accept that our emergency service workers can be assaulted while doing their job and we will do everything in our power to protect them. However, I also believe they must be paid properly for the essential work that they do and this is why I will continue to press the Government to lift its cap on public sector pay for all public service workers.
I will continue to follow the progress of this Bill closely.