HC Deb 04 April 2003 vol 402 cc920-2W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many assaults have taken place against prison officer staff at prisons in England and Wales during the last 12 months. [105266]

Hilary Benn

During the last 12 months there have been 3,365 proven prisoner adjudications for assaults against staff and others. This includes adjudications for assaults on visitors, private contractor employees and non Prison Service staff. The Prison Service does not collect separately, specific data on assault on prison officers. From April 2003, serious assaults on staff and prisoners will be calculated and reported separately.

The Prison Service is committed to reducing all forms of violence in prison whether affecting prisoners or staff. Future plans will include the development and implementation of a violence reduction strategy, which will bring together existing approaches and seek to develop a safer environment for prisoners and staff.

Mr. Stinchcombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of prisoners are sharing(a) two to a cell designed for one and (b) three to a cell designed for two. [105401]

Hilary Benn

At the end of February 2003, 20.2 per cent. of the prisoner population were sharing two to a cell designed for one (doubled).

The Prison Service does not collect specific data on the number of prisoners sharing three to a cell designed for two. However, at the same date, 23.8 per cent. of the total population were held in overcrowded conditions. This includes prisoners doubled, those held three to a cell designed for two and any prisoners overcrowded in dormitories and larger cells.

All data are provisional and subject to validation by prisons.

Mr. Gibb

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 11 March 2003,Official Report, column 211–12W, on prisons, what assessment he has made of the effect of reform to the criminal justice system on the reduction of (a) crime and (b) the prison population; and what estimate he has made of the number of prison service prisoners who will be held in police cells in 2004. [105236]

Hilary Benn

The Government is undertaking a programme of reform and modernisation in the Criminal Justice System in pursuit of its Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets to reduce crime, narrow the justice gap and increase public confidence in criminal justice. Central to this programme is the Criminal Justice Bill currently going through the House. The Bill provides for a range of significant reforms to the criminal justice system, including criminal procedures and evidence. In particular, it creates a new range of sentences designed to improve public protection and rehabilitate offenders so as to reduce re-offending. The reforms draw upon the review of sentencing policy conducted by John Halliday (Making Punishments Work, published in July 2001). The review made clear that sentencing can reduce crime in a number of ways—through deterrence, incapacitation, reform, rehabilitation, and reparation. It concluded that changes to the present sentencing framework should be capable of reducing crime through reductions in re-offending. The cost-benefit model underpinning the review attempted to quantify these benefits. It is summarised in Appendix 7 of the report.

Current projections indicate that the sentencing provisions in the Bill will result in a small increase of about 1,000 in the prison population in the long term.

It is not possible to predict how many prisoners will be held in police cells in 2004. The use of police cells is dependent on the population pressures at the time and the number used can vary on a daily basis. Their use is carefully monitored by the Prison Service and every effort is made to locate Prison Service prisoners held in police cells to a prison as soon as possible. There are currently no prisoners held in Police Cells.

Mr. Beith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether(a) future annual cost of living pay increases and (b) cost of living increases covering the last two years are to be withheld from instructional officers in Her Majesty's prisons and youth offender institutions who have not signed the new contract; and if he will make a statement. [105379]

Hilary Benn

[holding answer 2 April 2003]: To enable more effective use of Prison Service Instructional Officers, it has been necessary to make changes to their terms, conditions and working practices. Prison Service operational managers are firmly of the view that such changes are needed if effective regimes are to be delivered and if instructional officers are to continue to he employed alongside the much more flexible—and no more expensive—prison officer instructors. This is an important step in the modernisation of the Prison Service.

Instructional officers have received the same pay increases as other administrative, secretarial, specialist and support staff in the Prison Service up until the 2002 award. An offer effective from 1 July 2002 was made in December 2002 to their trade union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), incorporating the changes to terms and conditions and working practices. This was rejected following a ballot of their members. An offer was then made to instructional officers on an individual basis, also incorporating the changes to terms and conditions and working practices. This offer included a £500 non-consolidated payment by way of compensation and an inducement to accept. No instructional officer has been compelled to opt for the new terms and conditions, but around 90 per cent. of instructional officers have now accepted the offer to change.

It is not sensible to maintain the pay scale under the old terms and conditions by giving cost of living increases, otherwise there would have been little incentive for staff to move to the modernised grade. From 1 July 2002, therefore, the 10 per cent. of instructional officers who have opted out will not receive a cost of living increase. However, those staff below the maximum of the old pay range will continue to receive a fixed amount of pay progression, with the amount dependent on their annual performance appraisal.