In July 2020, the Government accepted in full six out of seven recommendations made by the Prison Service Pay Review Body. This delivered an increase of at least 2.5%, with some staff receiving up to 7% with progression. This delivered an above-inflation increase, and it was the third year in a row that prison staff have benefited from a pay award of at least 2%. In rejecting recommendation 3, the impact on recruitment, retention and staff morale were carefully considered alongside affordability and value for money for the taxpayer. I would like to say that I highly value the work of the prison staff, and the decision to reject recommendation 3 should in no way suggest otherwise.
Prison officers are poorly paid for the incredibly difficult job that they do, and the Government’s experts recommended a £3,000 pay rise for band 3 prison officers to tackle the crisis in recruitment, retention and morale. The Government are committed to departing from their recommendations only under exceptional circumstances, so will the Minister explain what exceptional circumstances justify not paying band 3 prison officers what they deserve?
To repeat, I recognise the very difficult work that prison officers are doing up and down the country at this time. The pay proposals that we have accepted deliver an increase in pay, and as I mentioned, we took into account factors including affordability and value for money at this time.
Violence in our prisons has increased massively over the past decade, and skilled staff are essential to keep prisons safe. The Minister knows that the pay review body recommended a one-off increase to wages in band 3 as a job retention package, to ensure that our prisons keep the staff they need. She knows that staff and vulnerable prisoners will be at greater risk if yet more skilled officers leave the profession, so let me give her another chance to answer the question: she chose to ignore that recommendation—why?
I would like to address the point that the hon. Lady raised about violence in our prisons. I am pleased that violence in the adult male estate has gone down over recent months. Of course we accept that it is too high, and we must continue to do more to protect our prison officers. That is why we are rolling out body-worn cameras, and why we have 24/7 counselling and trauma support, as well as other things to support prison officers. Of course pay is a critical factor in the way that people value their job, and we are introducing a package of measures to ensure that prison officers continue well in their roles.