Yobs wielding bricks, bottles and machetes are attacking West Midlands firefighters as they answer emergency calls, Lord Morris has warned.

Emergency workers in the region have suffered more than 60 assaults this year alone, and new laws are needed to target the thugs behind the violence, said former Transport and General Workers Union leader Bill Morris.

Slamming the attacks, he said they were a symptom of the contempt in which society held public servants. "How on Earth have we ended up with a society in which emergency workers become the target of abuse and attack while carrying out their duties as public servants?" he asked.

"These attacks are not only a danger to the emergency workers, but also to the people they seek to help.

"Why are our public servants victims, attacked and obstructed while serving the community?

"I suggest one cause; we as a society have systematically devalued our public services and disrespected our public servants for years and we are now paying a very heavy price."

Lord Morris called for more protection for firefighters as he made his first speech in the House of Lords.

Lord Morris said he backed the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Bill, which aims to make it an offence to "obstruct or hinder" emergency service workers.

But he said he was concerned that existing laws against violent or threatening behaviour were not being enforced properly.

The peer said he rejected arguments that violence was a result of poverty. I was brought up in a small, rural community in Jamaica. As it happens, my father was a part-time police officer.

"Never would a villager have failed to support and protect those people who gave their time as public servants."

The Bill was launched by Labour's Alan Williams (Swansea West). It has cleared its Commons stages.

It was given an unopposed second reading in the Lords and will now go to a committee of the whole House.

>> Abuse and stone-throwers - click here

>> What sort of nation attacks its heroes? - read Post Comment here.