Last Friday two important measures were debated in the House of Commons, both introduced by backbench MPs as a Private Members Bill. Both of these Bills are fine examples of how backbench Members of Parliament can add to the government’s legislative agenda, if they are lucky enough to be drawn early in each year’s ballot.
The first, introduced by my Conservative colleague Kevin Hollinrake MP, is the Parental Bereavement Bill. This Bill will introduce a statutory entitlement for employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 to have the right to two weeks’ paid leave, to allow them time to grieve. The leave entitlement will be a day-one right and the pay entitlement will be subject to 26 weeks’ continuous service (as with paternity pay).
I have been deeply moved by the candid and courageous words of campaigners whom I have met, as well as parliamentary colleagues, who have shared their own personal story of bereavement in the Commons, as strong advocates to raise awareness of the challenges which child bereavement brings. I am pleased the Government is backing this Bill, to help give grieving parents the support they need at the most difficult of times.
The other Bill introduced last Friday, by a Labour MP, Chris Bryant, is the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill. This seeks to make assaulting certain emergency workers such as police, fire, and ambulance workers a statutory aggravating factor. This would mean that when a person is convicted of an assault, the judge must consider the fact it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence.
The government is also supporting this Bill, in keeping with its manifesto commitments to take vigorous and immediate action against those who abuse or attack the people who work for and make our NHS. It is completely unacceptable for members of our emergency services to be subject to aggression or violence while doing their duty to protect the public, and the government’s support for this Bill is a reflection of our commitment to the staff who work so hard.
The two Bills will now pass on to Committee Stage, for further scrutiny in the House of Commons. While many Private Members Bills do not make it on to the statute book, both Bills received substantial cross-party support on Friday (including from me), so with Government help to timetable sufficient parliamentary time, I am hopeful we will see these Bills become law next year.