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POA Conference ’19 Labour would end ‘scandal’ of prison officers working until the age of 68, shadow justice minister says

A LABOUR government would end the “scandal” of prison officers having to work until the age of 68, shadow justice minister Imran Hussain has pledged.

Addressing the POA union’s conference in Southport today, the Labour MP said it was “quite simply outrageous” that staff had to work for so long.

“Being a prison officer means being in strong physical condition – that is beyond many people over 60,” he warned. “Sixty-eight is too late.”

“What all this amounts to is a lack of respect by this government for what prison officers do.”

The socialist Labour MP savaged the Tories’ track record on prisons in a speech which saw several standing ovations from a union that represents over 35,000 prison staff.

Mr Hussain said the government had “cut the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and prison service to the bone.”

“There have been more cuts to the MoJ than any other department in Whitehall.”

He said the scale of cuts was “eye-watering” with a “colossal” 40 per cent slashed from budgets.

The system was now “completely starved of funding.”

Mr Hussain said this was “not evidence-based policy but an ideological one so the Tories can give tax cuts to their rich mates.”

He accused the government of wanting to deliberately “create a justice emergency so bad that they can bring in the private sector to fix it … despite the failings of G4S, Sodexo and Interserve.”

He warned: “The cuts are not sustainable and undermine the key function of the justice system which is to keep people safe.”

Austerity had caused violence in jails to “skyrocket” with staff and prisoners subjected to serious harm, Mr Hussain said.

The number of assaults last year had risen to 34,000 and self-harm incidents reached 55,000.

“This is deeply distressing for prison officers,” Mr Hussain noted. “It is you who are first to discover a body, to cut them down after self harm.

“And there is just over one assault on prison officers every hour of every day.

“By the end of this conference there will have been over 80 assaults on staff.

“The financial squeeze cannot go on – we tell the Tories that they need to treat prison officers with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

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