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THE government was accused of breaking health and safety laws today, with MPs from across the political spectrum slamming the treatment of prison staff.
Labour’s Grahame Morris warned of an “explosion in violence in our prisons directed against prison officers" at Justice Questions in the Commons.
Proudly sporting a POA badge, the Easington MP asked if ministers agreed with the prison officers’ union that “the government is breaching its responsibilities under health and safety legislation by wilfully exposing hard-pressed prison staff to assaults, currently running at 10,000 a year – or over 28 a day.”
Justice minister Lucy Frazer replied that she was “very concerned about the level of violence in prisons” but claimed that her predecessor Rory Stewart’s failed 10 Prisons Project showed that this could be reduced.
But Labour MPs lined up to remind her that the previous Tory/Lib-Dem government was responsible for axing 7,000 prison officers, leading to the loss of an astonishing 80,000 years of cumulative experience.
And Frazer’s Conservative colleague Gordon Henderson highlighted how “cuts earlier this decade contributed to a vicious circle of prison violence – less officers on landings led to more assaults, which caused more staff to leave, leading to more violence, and so on.”
Mr Henderson asked: “With morale and retention of prison officers at rock bottom, does the prisons minister accept that more must be done to reward these brave public servants, for instance reducing their retirement age to 60 because 68 is far too late?”
The Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, who has three prisons in his constituency, also led a debate on prison officer pension age later in the day.
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