I am going to make some progress. I am really trying to get through these points in the time that I have.
The role of prison officer is a diverse, interesting and critical one, parts of which can be physically demanding. All prison officers who joined the service after April 2001 must pass an annual fitness test in order to remain prison officers. We do not discriminate on the basis of someone’s age; many factors determine a person’s ability to pass a fitness test. Staff who do not meet the annual fitness test standard are provided with advice and support by a fitness assessor on achieving and maintaining the required fitness level.
The Prison Service recruits staff to work up to the normal pension age of 65, and it has employed new prison officers in their 60s who have passed the fitness test and are performing their roles effectively. In addition, many staff who have the right to retire at 60 choose to work beyond their retirement age. It is therefore not true to say that it is inappropriate or unsafe for prison officers to work over a certain age.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey is right when he says that we must recognise the commitment, bravery and hard work of our prison officers.