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Police Officers: Harm in the Line of Duty

Volume 696: debated on Monday 7 June 2021

The Government are completely committed to ensuring that our brave police officers receive the support and protection they deserve. We have proposed legislation to enshrine in law a police covenant and to double the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers. We also continue to invest in direct support to the police through the National Police Wellbeing Service.

I welcome the commitments this Government have made to cut crime and to get more police on to our streets. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that our police have the tools to tackle violent crime and antisocial behaviour in Bury, Ramsbottom, Tottington, and throughout the country?

I know from conversations with my hon. Friend that he is a powerful supporter of the police, particularly in his own constituency, and he wants more of his constituents to meet more of the police officers who are being recruited into his local force at some rate of knots. While it is true that having the police officers will make a huge difference, so will giving them exactly the kind of tools that he has talked to me about in the past to do their job, as will the support of Members of Parliament such as him. Police officers out on the frontline doing an incredibly difficult and challenging job need to know that we stand with them in defending them and promoting them.

The latest figures from the National Police Chiefs Council show that on this Government’s watch, assaults on police officers have been rising since 2015 and there has been a 26% increase in assaults on emergency workers in the months leading to April 2021 compared with the same period in 2019. There have been 30,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales in a year. I am glad that the Government have finally listened to calls from Labour to increase sentences for people who assault emergency workers, but why are they doing absolutely nothing to stop the assaults in the first place? If I was in government, I would commission Home Office research into exactly who is assaulting our officers and why, I would tackle single-crew patrols, and I would make sure that officers have the right kit to be protected. Will the Minister do the same?

You will have to advise me, Mr Speaker, on whether it is in order for a Member to speak in support of something she voted against, but I welcome the hon. Lady’s belated support for the doubling of sentences for assaults on emergency workers, which was included in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, against which the Opposition voted. She is right, though, to raise the issue, which has been of serious concern to us for some time, of the rise in assaults on emergency workers, and particularly on police officers. Sadly, during the pandemic we saw, in particular, the awful phenomenon of people coughing or spitting at police officers and claiming that they were infectious when they did so. Happily, we saw a number of significant sentences handed out for that particular offence and the courts dealt with them quickly. But there is always much more that we can do. Under the police covenant, which again the hon. Lady voted against, one of the key planks of the work that we will be doing is looking at safety, welfare and support for police officers.