HC Deb 17 March 1988 vol 129 cc660-1W
51. Mr. Soames

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on industrial relations in the prison service.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The national executive committee of the Prison Officers' Association has expressed concern about certain aspects of the new working practices introduced under fresh start and about manpower resources. Following a national ballot in favour of industrial action, it instructed its members not to complete a form required by management in connection with the control and allocation of staff hours. Talks are being held between officials and members of the NEC and some progress has been made. We urge the POA NEC now to recommend all industrial action be suspended in view of the progress. Local action is currently taking place over manpower issues surrounding the introduction of fresh start at Wormwood scrubs and Pentonville. The prison population at those establishments has been reduced and the numbers held in police cells has risen.

The fresh start working arrangements represented a major change for the prison service. No one doubted that the change would be difficult to achieve but a good start has been made and a recent study confirms that we are moving in the right direction. We are determined to see the task through to completion. We remain committed to achieving these crucial goals in the spirit of constructive collaboration with prison service trade unions.