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Assaults bill heading for Commons debate

A Private Member's Bill calling for changes in the law to better protect police and other emergency service workers from assaults will be presented in Parliament next Wednesday (19 July).

The bill will be put forward by Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant who, having been given the opportunity to put forward one of six bills, asked people to vote for which they preferred in an online poll.

The Assaults on Emergency Staff Bill won with 10,764 votes out of a possible 33,900.

It includes protections called for by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) around sentencing and mandatory blood testing of those who spit at officers, as part of its Protect The Protectors campaign in conjunction with its partners, the British Transport Police Federation and the Prison Officers' Association.

"This is great news and is real progress for our Protect The Protectors campaign. Having won early support from Halifax MP Holly Lynch, it was disappointing when her bid to present this bill earlier in the year was thwarted due to a lack of available time," says Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation.

"Now we just need to see if other MPs support the bill. In recent months, we have heard plenty of politicians praising the police for their actions so let's hope that they are now willing to back up those words with actions.

"I will be following the debate and will be very interested to see how our Leicestershire MPs vote on this matter." Mr Bryant told the Daily Politics on Wednesday: "I will introduce a new offence of attacking an emergency worker whilst they are doing their job. This is because so many police officers, ambulance workers, doctors and NHS workers have been attacked in recent years and the law simply isn't strong enough to protect them."

He said he had spoken to Conservative MPs and was confident of cross party support.

Mr Bryant added: "We need a proper way of telling people in this country that it is simply not on to attack a fire worker when they are trying to put out a fire; it's not on to attack a paramedic when they are trying to resuscitate somebody. When people spit there's no requirement in law that they have to provide a blood test.

"Every single politician in this country goes on about how wonderful our emergency workers are - and yes they are - this is an opportunity to put something on the statute books that 'protects the protectors'."

Calum Macleod, vice chair of the Police Federation, has welcomed the MP's support. He said: "This is extremely positive news and we are grateful to Chris Bryant for agreeing to present the bill, which represents a significant step forward for our campaign and for emergency service workers throughout the country. We hope that the bill will be widely supported by MPs across the House and result in the necessary changes in legislation to better Protect The Protectors."