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Prison Staff, Leeds (Tests)

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 30 November 1950

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applicants there have been during the past two years, stated separately, for the post of established prison officers at His Majesty's Prison at Armley, Leeds how many have been rejected after a probationary period without any reason being given; and whether he is satisfied that the tests applied to these men are suitable, bearing in mind the duties they would be called upon to perform.

I am afraid this answer is rather long. During the year ended 31st October, 1949, 120 applicants for the post of prison officer attended at H.M. Prison, Leeds, for a first interview. Forty-two eventually joined for preliminary training, of whom 11 resigned and seven were discharged as unsuitable to attend the training school at Wakefield. Of the 24 who attended at Wakefield, seven failed to qualify and the remaining 17 have become established officers. During the year ended 31st October, 1950, 321 applicants had a first interview. Forty-two joined for preliminary training, of whom four resigned, 13 have been discharged as unsuitable for the training school and 17 are still undergoing preliminary training. Of the eight who attended at Wakefield, one failed to qualify and seven have become established officers.

An unsuccessful candidate is given no reason for being discharged other than that he is not thought suitable for the specialised work of a prison officer, and I do not think any useful purpose would be served by altering this practice. I am satisfied that the tests used are suitable and that they are properly applied.

Does not my right hon. Friend think, on reflection, that this is a most unsatisfactory position? Is he aware that even since I put down this Question I have received further evidence of the dissatisfaction of ex-Service men and women of good non-commissioned officer type who have been rejected after only five minutes' interview?

I am willing to consider any case which my hon. Friend likes to bring to my notice, but I am satisfied that if we are to get men and women of the right calibre for this service we must set a high standard.