HL Deb 14 July 1986 vol 478 cc762-3WA
Baroness Macleod of Borve

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make a statement on the dispute involving women prison officers at HM Remand Centre, Risley.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

At noon on Friday 4th July the local branch of the Prison Officers' Association at Risley began refusing to receive female prisoners without allowing for the discussion of their grievances at regional level envisaged in the procedure agreed between the Home Office and the Prison Officers' Association as a basis for settlement of the recent national industrial action. According to unconfirmed reports, that procedure, which had been recommended to POA members by their National Executive Committee, was overwhelmingly endorsed in a national ballot conducted on 2nd July: counting of the ballot is understood to have been suspended by the national Executive Committee pending a resolution of the Risley dispute.

The POA Branch at Risley escalated its industrial action rapidly on 4th July to include an overtime ban and work to rule. The Governor had to call in Assistant Governors from two other establishments to carry out essential work not being undertaken by POA members, who were neither suspended nor locked out but simply told they would not be paid for work they were not doing.

In the course of last week Home Office officials held over 16 hours of talks with POA National Executive Committee and Risley Branch representatives in which they made several proposals designed to find a way of enabling the dispute at Risley to be resolved within the agreed procedure. Discussions focused on the manning of an annexe of four cells in the establish-ment. At the conclusion of discussion on Thursday 10th July, POA representatives agreed to put the following proposal to the Risley Branch: The Risley dispute has not been handled locally in accordance with the procedure agreed between the Home Office and the Prison Officers' Association as a basis for settlement of the recent national industrial action. Both sides reiterate their commitment to that procedure. The long term function and manning of the cellular annexe at Risley and other issues raised by the Risley Branch will be the subject of review by the Regional Manpower Team. They will then be discussed locally and at regional level in accordance with the agreed procedure. For the present, on an interim and without prejudice basis, and in order to enable the agreed procedure to get under way, the cellular annexe at Risley will be occupied by Rule 43 inmates and the adjacent landing and dormitory areas will be manned by two staff. The unit will be manned throughout the day by one officer when it is in a patrol state. These levels are an irreducible minimum. Additional manning will be provided to give effect to satisfactory regime activities in the unit, which will be determined in the context of Appendix D of the agreed 1981 Manpower Report. The level of additional manning required (which will not be found by diversion from officer tasks) will be decided following discussions between the Governor and the local branch in accordance with the agreed procedure.

This joint statement was accepted by the Risley Branch at a meeting on Friday 11th July. The prison is now working normally.