On Tuesday, an Urgent Question was granted by Mr. Speaker on the announcement by the Prison Officers union that they will be working to rule following the continued rise in attacks on both themselves and other inmates by prisoners.
As you know, I have been campaigning within the Justice Select Committee and the floor of the House for the Government to tackle the rise in attacks, some of which result in deaths. Our prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. The Government have spent the last 6 years cutting the number of prison officers only to realise that in doing so they have put the effectiveness of prisons at a terrible risk.
The Prisons Officers union (called the Prison Officers Association) is unable to strike by law, just like the police, and the Government have threatened them with legal action if they proceed with their work to rule plans. One of the demands for the officers is more and better trained staff.
The Government, during the Urgent Question, alluded to a pay review which is being done independently. I asked the Minister if he would accept the outcome and recommendations of the review, seeing as the Government was placing great emphasis on the ability of this review to help prison officers. The Minister fumbled an answer. He said he couldn’t say whether he would accept it or not. Completely undermining his belief that said review would solve some of the problems in our prisons. As you can hear in the clip the Commons was not impressed by his answer.
As ever, I will continue to push the Government to support our prison officers, sadly one of the forgotten public servant groups, to ensure that prisons work.