Levels of violence in our prisons remain too high, but I am pleased to say that we are on a downward trend in respect of assaults. In January to March this year, assaults on staff decreased by 5% on the three previous quarter, and in the latest quarter the number of assaults on staff decreased by a further 4%. Decreases have been seen across the public and private estate. We have also seen a net rise of almost 4,000 prison officers in bands 3 to 5 since 2016. We do not hold figures for the number of staff at private prisons as we measure performance in a different way.
I thank the Minister for that response. I had hoped that even this Government would accept the link between prison understaffing and high levels of violence. Why are the Government building a new generation of private prisons that will have no minimum staffing levels and no requirements for private operators to reveal staff numbers as they will not be subject to freedom of information requests? Frankly, this is an appalling policy of “Don’t ask me any questions and I won’t tell you any lies.”
As I mentioned, we have increased the number of staff in the public sector. We have also introduced the key worker scheme, which is essential for staff to liaise with the prisoners. Private prisons perform well, as do public prisons. Recent reports from this year for HMP Parc and HMP Rye Hill, which are both managed by G4S, judged both to be good. There is not a mantra that public is good, private is bad; both work well.