Prison Officers

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th December 2017.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon 12:00 am, 5th December 2017

What assessment he has made of the effect of the recent pay award on the recruitment and retention of prison officers.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The Prison Service pay review body recommendations, which I accepted in full, were implemented in the October and November pay of officers. It is therefore too early to assess the effect of this particular award, but I can report to the House that at the end of September this year total prison officer numbers were up by more than 1,200 full-time equivalent staff compared with the previous 12-month period.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon

Given that the leave rate among key prison officers in bands 3 to 5 is still running at 10%, does the Secretary of State not think it time to offer prison officers more than the 1.7% they have been offered in order to retain experienced prison staff and keep our prisons safe?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

For those prisons, mostly in London and south-east England, experiencing particular challenges over both recruitment and retention, we are offering additional support and resources. I would have hoped, however, that the hon. Lady would have welcomed the significant increase in prison officer numbers over the last year. The prison officer pay recommendations were implemented in full, and prison officers received a pay rise of 1.7%. In terms of the total bill, that is more than was awarded to other public sector workers.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the impact of prison officers’ terms and conditions and pay scales on their morale now compared with five years ago?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Prison officers certainly are working under very challenging conditions, not least because of how organised crime is promoting traffic in new psychoactive substances across prison walls, but we believe that not just the increase in numbers but the shift, in forthcoming months, to the new offender management model, under which each officer will take responsibility for about half a dozen named offenders, will contribute to increased morale.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

One in four prisons have seen a reduction in the number of prison officers over the past year, including a quarter of prisons the Government label as being of concern, so given their so-called recruitment drive, will the Secretary of State guarantee today that no prison, apart from those planned for closure, will have fewer staff at the end of the year than they did at the beginning?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

As I said in response to the last question, the new offender management model, which we are implementing throughout the system, will reduce the pressure on individual prison officers. Where a particular prison has greater than average difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, we will continue to put in extra resource and support to help them.