10 January 2023
An ‘Elizabeth Medal’ awarded to the families of emergency workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty is one step closer to becoming reality, as the campaign continues to gather momentum with the backing of a number of Parliamentarians.
Today in Parliament [10 January], a multitude of cross-party MPs held a backbench debate, secured by Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat MP and chief whip and spokesperson for work and pensions, to push the Police Federation of England and Wales’s (PFEW) Medals for Heroes campaign.
PFEW is pressing for Home Office approval and is seeking cross-party support to enhance the current honours and awards system, which fails to adequately reflect the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of those individuals who lost their lives in keeping their local communities safe.
It would be similar in status to the Elizabeth Cross, which is awarded to the bereaved relatives of members of the British Armed Forces killed in military action.
Moving a motion, Ms Chamberlain told MPs: “We have long-standing awards for gallantry, sacrifice and service, for those who have given to our country in all sorts of different ways. It is right that such service deserves recognition, and the recipients and their families are rightly proud.
“But sadly, there are those who have equally served their country and have made sacrifices who are not being recognised as they should.
“No reward or recognition can replace the loss of a loved one, but if we can go someway to make them feel like that loss has been recognised, it is very important.”
She spoke of how she joined Lothian and Borders Police in 1999, serving for 12 years as a police officer, as were her father and husband. All of them suffered violent assault.
Her father also won a Royal Humane Society award in 1983 for rescuing a man from drowning in a dock.
The Medals for Heroes campaign was officially launched by PFEW, the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Prison Officers’ Association in April last year.
The campaign has also been supported by Bryn Hughes, whose daughter PC Nicola Hughes and her colleague PC Fiona Bone were murdered 10 years ago, and the families of fallen officers across the United Kingdom, including the family of PC George Taylor.
PC George Taylor who served Police Scotland was killed on 30 November 1976 by Robert Mone and Thomas McCulloch.
In 2021, they were told by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Jack, their latest request for a medal had been disappointingly refused by the Home Office and Cabinet Office in Downing Street.
“There are many families with ongoing campaigns for justice. That is why I am here with other members, calling on the Government to institute a new award for emergency service workers, Ms Chamberlain continued.
“It is part of the royal prerogative to determine honours and awards, but the Prime Minister does give advice on such matters, so I would argue that it is entirely within the Government and Prime Minister’s purview to put forward the recommendations, endorsed not only by members in this place, but professional bodies across the country for a new award.”
Fallen Nottinghamshire Police Constable Ged Walker was also remembered during the debate.
On 7 January 2003, PC Walker was dragged 100 yards and fatally injured by a stolen taxi as he reached into the vehicle in an attempt to remove the keys from the ignition. He died in hospital two days later from serious head injuries. He was survived by his widow and two children.
Darren Henry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said: “PC Walker is a shining example of why an award, such as a medal, should exist. He and all other police officers put their lives on the line every day they go to work. Officers who have lost their lives protecting their communities must be recognised in such tragic circumstances.”
Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax and shadow minister for security, commented: “So often officers are out there on their own. There is no such thing as a routine call in policing - the circumstances can change in an instant.
“This medal will be one step towards understanding the contributions they make, the risks that they take, and what we really owe to the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.”