HC Deb 14 December 1967 vol 756 cc597-9
1. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further action he proposes, following the implementation of all the recommendations of the Mountbatten Report cm Prisons, to make the conditions of prison officers more attractive.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

The conditions of service of prison officers are kept under continuous review to ensure that they are adequate to attract sufficient men and women of good quality.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

In view of the known over-crowding of prisons and the understaffing at present, which was revealed at the time of the Mountbatten Report, will not the Home Secretary look again at this most urgent matter?

Mr. Callaghan

There have been a number of new allowances introduced in order to improve the conditions of service, and substantial agreements have been reached on the introduction of new rinks and on promotion procedure. All these things directly arise out of Mountbatten, and I think that we must leave it to the normal negotiating machinery to propose any further changes which are thought appropriate.

Mr. Whitaker

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this his first appearance at the Dispatch Box in his present office, and I wish him every success for the future.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of the public and the prison service that prison officers should as far as possible develop from being mere turnkeys into social rehabilitative workers? Will he do all he can for the training and pay of the service to increase its capacity for social work?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir; there is a strong case for doing what my hon. Friend suggests, and I believe that this is the approach of the Prison Officers' Association, too.

Mr. Hogg

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that we on this side, too, welcome him to his new position and that he can count on us to support him in his war against crime? Has he had a chance to study the complaints in the prison officers' magazine about the delay in implementing the Mountbatten Report and the contrast which they draw between the great gimmickry of floodlight perimeter walls and so on and the reluctance of the Government to implement things for the benefit of those who are employed to perform this indispensable service?

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged for what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, though I shall walk with circumspection as I am never sure whether he is likely to proffer me a bunch of roses or a shillelagh.

I have not seen what is said in the Prison Officers' Association magazine, but I have a rather imposing list of improvements which have been effected since the Mountbatten recommendations were made, some of which I outlined in reply to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker).

2. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has, now that the Criminal Justice Act has abolished corporal punishment for offences in prison to protect and compensate prison officers injured by prisoners.

Mr. Callaghan

Arrangements have been made to identify prisoners who are a potential danger to prison officers so that they may be especially allocated and be afforded remedial treatment. A claim from the Prison Officers' Association for improved compensation in respect of prison officers killed or injured as a result of violence by an inmate is being considered. As the Association recognises this claim raises complex issues.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the Home Secretary have a hard look at this, as it is pretty tough going in prisons now that the threat of corporal punishment has been removed? Will he see that prison officers are really protected or, if not, compensated properly and adequatly?

Mr. Callaghan

In view of the nature of the prison population and the offences of which some prisoners are convicted, there is always a risk of violence against the staff. It is certainly our duty to ensure that that risk is minimised as much as possible. As regards compensation, if anyone should be injured, I shall give the most serious consideration to it.

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