Protecting our prison officers is vital to having safe prisons. In order to do this, we have doubled the maximum sentence for assaulting a prison officer; we are introducing body-worn cameras; we are rolling out PAVA spray; and we are ensuring, through the training and support we provide for prison officers and the work we do on drugs, that we keep our prisons safe.
A key factor in the safety of prison officers is the number of these professionals in each prison. In an earlier response, the Minister said that the number was at a higher level than in any year since 2012. What is the number of prison officers at the moment and what plans does he have to increase the number of these professionals over the next 12 months?
We now have 4,300 additional prison officers, which is the highest level since 2012.
What about 2010?
We have fewer officers than in 2010. There was a reduction from 2010 to 2012, but we have now turned that around, with the 4,300 extra officers, meaning we can now roll out the key worker programme, which is central, as it means we have the ratios we need to have one prison officer allied with four prisoners to make sure we deliver the work on rehabilitation.
The number of officers is only one part of the equation. Will the Minister increase the almost poverty pay of those in the lowest-paid jobs in the Prison Service and the courts?
We have been looking at this very carefully, and the public sector pay review body is currently gathering evidence on the situation. We owe a huge debt of obligation to our prison officers and we have to think about their salaries. We also have to balance that with making sure our resources go into improving the physical fabric of these buildings and having the right security infrastructure and the right programming in place. Looking at the resources as a whole, we think we have got the balance right, but we will listen to the public sector pay review body.