An Urgent Question was granted by Mr Speaker, yesterday, following the news that two prison officers were “seriously injured” and taken to hospital after an attack by an inmate at Wormwood Scrubs in west London. The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said the officers were attacked while on duty on Sunday morning. About 50 members of staff walked out for a day on Friday, citing health and safety concerns after recent attacks.
I questioned the Prisons Minister about the Governments record of cutting prison officer staffing by 41%, whereupon in 2016 assaults on prison officers rose by the same percentage. The Minister had mentioned that prison officer numbers have been increasing, but he used figures based on the past couple of years. I asked him how many prison officers there were in 2010 and how many there are today. Answer came there none.
The Minister said “I do not have those particular figures to hand”. I was deeply shocked that the Minister responsible for prisons was unable to tell me one of the most important figures to his brief.
I have previously held the position of Minister of State for Justice and I know of the pressures that Prison Officers face. The lack of support this government has shown is putting their safety at risk.