Police, Fire and Rescue Services: Funding Reductions — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:58 am on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:58 am, 20th February 2019

My hon. Friend may have read my script and known that I was going to mention that. I have become very alarmed by attacks on the fire and rescue service, the PSNI and the ambulance service—and, indeed, on A&E staff, which he referred to—across Northern Ireland. There is something grossly morally wrong and evil about people feeling they can attack our rescue services when they are out doing their job of responding to a fire or to someone who is hurt. There is also the issue of the theft of property from ambulances and fire engines. Defibrillators, for instance, are stolen from the back of ambulances, as is other equipment. That all has to be paid for. Whenever people lay their lives on the line to save others, they should be shown an element of respect.

My hon. Friend referred to accident and emergency. Again, there is something grossly offensive about people feeling it is okay to go into A&E and verbally abuse nurses, doctors or other people who are there to help. There is something criminally wrong with those who would attack people in A&E. My hon. Friend underlines how we as a nation feel. It is time to respect our fire and rescue service; it is time to respect our police; it is time to respect our ambulance service; and it is time to respect the nurses and doctors in A&E. We must send that message from the Chamber today.

I agree with the chair of the Local Government Association fire services management committee, who said:

“Projected rises in both the elderly population, including those living alone, and the number of people living in privately rented homes will only increase the risk of more fires putting people’s lives in danger.”

We have a duty to focus on elderly people who need help, and I look to the Minister for a response to that. The FBU says the number of firefighters has fallen by 22% in the past 10 years. The fire service is not sufficiently funded, and that needs to be changed.

The hon. Member for Easington mentioned electrical wiring, which he, I and others in the Chamber have spoken about before. That is about not only upgrading and checking the wiring in houses, but identifying faulty electrical equipment. We have had many Westminster Hall debates about that issue, and he is absolutely right to underline it. I back up what he said, which was important.