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Written Question
Marriage
5 Jul 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what his timeframe is for bringing forward legislative proposals on marriage law after the conclusion of the Law Commission’s weddings review.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government has yet to receive the Law Commission’s proposals for consideration. The Law Commission expects to deliver its final proposals for reform of the law on marriage ceremonies later this year. The Government will give them careful consideration and decide on next steps.


Written Question
Prison Service Pay Review Body
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to his oral Answer on 2 February 2021, Official Report, column 829, whether he has placed any restrictions on future recommendations by the Prison Service Pay Review Body; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

It was announced by the Chancellor on 25 November 2020 that, in the interest of fairness, pay rises in the public sector will be restrained and targeted for the coming year (2021/22), whilst also ensuring an uplift for lower earning staff who need it most. This announcement reflects the substantial and unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on the economy, labour market, and fiscal position, which combined, have supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies in the private sector.

As such, the remit of the Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) and other public sector pay review bodies for the 2021/22 pay round has been restricted. The PSPRB will be gathering and considering a range of evidence in the usual way in order to develop recommendations which fall in line with the public sector pay policy

The pay policy involves a pause to any headline uplifts for all public sector workforces outside of the NHS who earn £24,000 or above. Anyone earning less than £24,000 will be protected and will receive a minimum uplift of £250, or the National Living Wage (whichever is the higher) should they qualify. The Departments proposals on how the uplift should apply to prison staff will be published and submitted to the PSPRB shortly.

The pay pause allows Government to protect public sector jobs and investment in public services as Covid-19 continues to have an impact. The position will be reassessed ahead of pay round 2022/23.


Written Question
Prison Officers: Pay
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to his oral Answer on 2 February 2021, Official Report, column 829, how many and what proportion of prison officers are planned to receive the £250 rise next year, by grade.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

It was announced by the Chancellor on 25 November 2020 that, in the interest of fairness, pay rises in the public sector will be restrained and targeted for the coming year (2021/22), whilst also ensuring an uplift for lower earning staff who need it most. This announcement reflects the substantial and unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on the economy, labour market, and fiscal position, which combined, have supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies in the private sector.

As such, the remit of the Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) and other public sector pay review bodies for the 2021/22 pay round has been restricted. The PSPRB will be gathering and considering a range of evidence in the usual way in order to develop recommendations which fall in line with the public sector pay policy

The pay policy involves a pause to any headline uplifts for all public sector workforces outside of the NHS who earn £24,000 or above. Anyone earning less than £24,000 will be protected and will receive a minimum uplift of £250, or the National Living Wage (whichever is the higher) should they qualify. The Departments proposals on how the uplift should apply to prison staff will be published and submitted to the PSPRB shortly.

The pay pause allows Government to protect public sector jobs and investment in public services as Covid-19 continues to have an impact. The position will be reassessed ahead of pay round 2022/23.


Written Question
Prison Officers: Pay
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to his oral Answer on 2 February 2021, Official Report, column 829, what effect his assessment of the times in which we live has had on the level of his support for the Prison Service Pay Review Body’s recommendation 3.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

The 20/21 PSPRB report was received on 5 June 2020 and included a recommendation to uplift the pay of Band 3 prison staff on modernised terms and conditions by £3,000, ‘recommendation 3’. This represented a substantial increase for our largest staffing group and was ultimately not accepted by the government, on the basis of the exceptional costs associated with implementing the recommendation, the impact on the overall prison service pay structure, and the changing labour market conditions due to the exceptional economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in the labour market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unpredictable changing state of the economy means that the assumptions made by the PSPRB upon which they based their recommendations have also changed. The decision to reject this recommendation was announced on 10 December 2020. Prison officers did however benefit from awards of between 2.5% and 7.5% for the current financial year (2020/21). This delivered an above inflation increase and is the third year in a row that prison staff have benefitted from an award of at least 2%.

The estimated cost of recommendation 3 is £46.8m per year. This includes the cost required to apply the uplift to non-operational prison service colleagues paid within the same band. The total annual cost of recommendation 3 alone represents a higher cost than that of the entire proposals made by HMPPS for the 2020/21 pay round, so presented clear challenges to afforadbilty.

Affordability considerations took into account value for money for the taxpayer, as well as competing funding priorities, such as key investments in prison safety and security, leadership and professionalisation, and staff wellbeing which all impact significantly upon staff.

Prior to the decision to reject ‘recommendation 3’, the Ministry of Justice considered the possible impacts on recruitment, retention and morale of doing so. However, recruitment, retention and staff morale levels are all driven by a range of factors and an increase in pay alone cannot be assumed to be a fix for these issues. These issues are continually under review by the department, as fundamental issues in our policy. There are no plans to publish further analysis on recommendation 3.

We are currently finalising the evidence to the Prison Service Pay Review Body for the 2021/22 pay round, in line with the pay policy set out by the Chancellor in November last year. This will be published and submitted to the PSPRB in due course.


Written Question
Prison Officers: Pay
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the oral Answer of the Minister of State on 2 February 2021, Official Report, column 824, what criteria his Department used to measure the (a) affordability and (b) value for money for the taxpayer of the Prison Service Pay Review Body’s recommendation 3.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

The 20/21 PSPRB report was received on 5 June 2020 and included a recommendation to uplift the pay of Band 3 prison staff on modernised terms and conditions by £3,000, ‘recommendation 3’. This represented a substantial increase for our largest staffing group and was ultimately not accepted by the government, on the basis of the exceptional costs associated with implementing the recommendation, the impact on the overall prison service pay structure, and the changing labour market conditions due to the exceptional economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in the labour market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unpredictable changing state of the economy means that the assumptions made by the PSPRB upon which they based their recommendations have also changed. The decision to reject this recommendation was announced on 10 December 2020. Prison officers did however benefit from awards of between 2.5% and 7.5% for the current financial year (2020/21). This delivered an above inflation increase and is the third year in a row that prison staff have benefitted from an award of at least 2%.

The estimated cost of recommendation 3 is £46.8m per year. This includes the cost required to apply the uplift to non-operational prison service colleagues paid within the same band. The total annual cost of recommendation 3 alone represents a higher cost than that of the entire proposals made by HMPPS for the 2020/21 pay round, so presented clear challenges to afforadbilty.

Affordability considerations took into account value for money for the taxpayer, as well as competing funding priorities, such as key investments in prison safety and security, leadership and professionalisation, and staff wellbeing which all impact significantly upon staff.

Prior to the decision to reject ‘recommendation 3’, the Ministry of Justice considered the possible impacts on recruitment, retention and morale of doing so. However, recruitment, retention and staff morale levels are all driven by a range of factors and an increase in pay alone cannot be assumed to be a fix for these issues. These issues are continually under review by the department, as fundamental issues in our policy. There are no plans to publish further analysis on recommendation 3.

We are currently finalising the evidence to the Prison Service Pay Review Body for the 2021/22 pay round, in line with the pay policy set out by the Chancellor in November last year. This will be published and submitted to the PSPRB in due course.


Written Question
Prison Officers: Pay
25 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the oral contribution of the Minister of State for Justice on 2 February 2021, Official Report, column 824, if he will publish his Department’s assessment of the impact on (a) recruitment, (b) retention, and (c) staff morale of the decision to reject the Prison Service Pay Review Body’s recommendation 3.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

The 20/21 PSPRB report was received on 5 June 2020 and included a recommendation to uplift the pay of Band 3 prison staff on modernised terms and conditions by £3,000, ‘recommendation 3’. This represented a substantial increase for our largest staffing group and was ultimately not accepted by the government, on the basis of the exceptional costs associated with implementing the recommendation, the impact on the overall prison service pay structure, and the changing labour market conditions due to the exceptional economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in the labour market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unpredictable changing state of the economy means that the assumptions made by the PSPRB upon which they based their recommendations have also changed. The decision to reject this recommendation was announced on 10 December 2020. Prison officers did however benefit from awards of between 2.5% and 7.5% for the current financial year (2020/21). This delivered an above inflation increase and is the third year in a row that prison staff have benefitted from an award of at least 2%.

The estimated cost of recommendation 3 is £46.8m per year. This includes the cost required to apply the uplift to non-operational prison service colleagues paid within the same band. The total annual cost of recommendation 3 alone represents a higher cost than that of the entire proposals made by HMPPS for the 2020/21 pay round, so presented clear challenges to afforadbilty.

Affordability considerations took into account value for money for the taxpayer, as well as competing funding priorities, such as key investments in prison safety and security, leadership and professionalisation, and staff wellbeing which all impact significantly upon staff.

Prior to the decision to reject ‘recommendation 3’, the Ministry of Justice considered the possible impacts on recruitment, retention and morale of doing so. However, recruitment, retention and staff morale levels are all driven by a range of factors and an increase in pay alone cannot be assumed to be a fix for these issues. These issues are continually under review by the department, as fundamental issues in our policy. There are no plans to publish further analysis on recommendation 3.

We are currently finalising the evidence to the Prison Service Pay Review Body for the 2021/22 pay round, in line with the pay policy set out by the Chancellor in November last year. This will be published and submitted to the PSPRB in due course.


Written Question
Prison Officers
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what the net change in the number of prison officers in England was in (a) 2018, (b) 2019 and (c) 2020.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

Prison officers play an essential role in keeping the public safe and protecting those in our care. The Staff in Post and net change in number of Band 3 to 5 prison officers in England only is given in the following tables.

As part of Prison Safety and Reform White Paper published in November 2016, the Prison Officer Recruitment Programme was tasked with delivering a net increase of 2500 prison officers by the end of the 2018 which accounts for the significant staffing increase at end September 2018. This recruitment target was achieved in early 2018 ahead of schedule.

We have continued to deliver recruitment campaigns to fill existing posts and vacancies arising due to attrition however, the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on social distancing and non-essential travel impacted on our ability to recruit and train new officers during 2020.

We have taken a range of measures to mitigate against further delays, including introducing a new online recruitment assessment centre and a targeted project to accelerate recruitment activity. In addition, HMPPS has also invited former prison officers to return to the service temporarily.

Table 1 - Net change in number of Band 3-5 prison officers1 in England2 only

Dates

Net change in headcount

Net change in Full Time Equivalent

12 months to 30 September 2018

3,062

3,034

12 months to 30 September 2019

234

186

12 months to 30 September 2020

-680

-733

Table 2 – Number of Staff in Post of Band 3-5 prison officers1 in England2 only

Dates

Headcount

Full Time Equivalent

Staff in post as at 30 September 2018

22,193

21,420

Staff in post as at 30 September 2019

22,427

21,606

Staff in post as at 30 September 2020

21,747

20,873

Notes to tables:

1. Band 3-5 Officers includes Band 3-4 / Prison Officers (incl. specialists), Band 4 / Supervising Officers, and Band 5 / Custodial Managers.

2. Excludes Wales, which is usually included in published statistics.


Written Question
Prisons
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what the average amount of time per day prisoners in England were confined to their cells was in (a) 2018, (b) 2019 and (c) 2020.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

It has not been possible to provide the information requested as it could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

The National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services, sets out how we will operate whilst responding to COVID-19. Supporting this, there is more detailed guidance about the nature of regime activity expected at each stage.

There is no central mandate which governs the amount of time that prisoners should spend out of their cells. The decisive action we have taken during the pandemic has meant tens of thousands of officers and prisoners have been kept safe in the face of perhaps the greatest challenge ever to face the service. We introduced a number of necessary restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, however, we have continued to offer as much time out of cells as possible, with necessary adaptions to manage infection. Governors are afforded the flexibility to deliver balanced regimes that maintain an appropriate level of time out of cell on a range of activities, including association, which meet the needs of the establishment’s population, whilst taking into account available resources.

Specifically, we have maintained a requirement in all prisons to provide prisoners with time in the open air. All sites have also set out how they will provide prisoners with time out of cell, and the safe equivalent of association time. Since the beginning of the pandemic, prisons were authorised to use external exercise yards for access to the open air.

The safety, mental health and wellbeing of prisoners has remained a priority. A range of products have been made available to support Governors in devising and implementing local safety and welfare plans designed to mitigate any risks. The increased restrictions have undoubtedly saved lives but we know they are extremely tough on prisoners - and we quickly rolled out video calls, in-cell education and extra support in response.


Written Question
HM Courts and Tribunals Service: Coronavirus
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what discussions he has had with trade unions representing Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service staff on risk assessments and safety measures implemented in Government buildings.

Answered by Chris Philp

HMCTS is committed to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all staff, members of the judiciary and visitors to its sites, as far as it is reasonably practical whilst they are on the premises. From the outset of this public health crisis, HMCTS officials have engaged at a national level with the Departmental Trade Union Side, consulting on policies and processes necessary to make the court and tribunal estate safe, and so to maintain access to justice. This collaboration, alongside that with Public Health agencies, representatives of those using the system and others, has helped HMCTS to ensure its ways of working are as effective as they can be.

The Corporate HMCTS H&S statement of intent confirms that ‘There will be active communication and consultation between employees, Trade Union Side (TUS), judiciary, contractors and other stakeholders in respect of security, health and safety procedures and responsibilities.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, HMCTS officials have maintained regular meetings and consultation with Departmental Trade Union Side in specific business areas including Human Resources, Operations, Health & Safety and Security, in addition to bespoke or specific consultation such as the Risk assessment tools.

The HMCTS risk assessment tools were developed and reviewed by HMCTS officials in consultation with Departmental Trade Union Side, following a workshop style approach over a period of 4 months from May 2020 to September 2020. The tool is issued to each HMCTS site with instruction that it should be, wherever possible, completed in conjunction and consultation with a Trade Union health and safety representative. I understand that wherever possible our officials did conduct those assessments with trade union colleagues and continue to do so as the assessment tools are reviewed regularly.

In addition to this, HMCTS regional Delivery Directors hold regular meetings with regional TU reps, where safety and security matters are raised and discussed.


Written Question
Courts: Coronavirus
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the (a) social distancing, (b) cleaning, (c) workplace incident control, (d) ventilation arrangements and (e) other safety arrangements in Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service in keeping staff and court users safe; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Chris Philp

Maintaining access to justice while keeping people safe is HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) top priority. As an essential public service, courts and tribunals have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have invested an additional £110m so all of our buildings are COVID-secure and can continue to operate safely.

We closely follow all Public Health and government advice on COVID-secure arrangements and update our policies to meet any new guidelines. Our approach to risk assessment is set out in our Organisational Risk Assessment (ORA) published at the start of the pandemic. It’s implemented on the ground by site-specific local risk assessments which are carried out and reviewed at least weekly, to review the measures in place and make sure they continue to meet the safety controls to the standard required.

Our range of control measures include:

  • social distancing floor markings and signage
  • regular touchpoint cleaning of high-traffic areas, including doors, lift buttons and handrails
  • supplies of soap and hand sanitiser
  • ventilation through natural or mechanical ventilation at all times
  • rearranged courtroom layouts
  • plexiglass screens in over 450 courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms
  • limitations on the number of people allowed in our buildings
  • maximum occupancy levels for consultation and courtrooms
  • one-way or one in, one out systems
  • a requirement for face coverings to be worn in public and communal areas of our buildings.

Public health experts have confirmed these are sufficient, including to deal with the new variant of the virus. We’re confident these measures meet COVID-secure guidelines through:

  • regular local risk assessments
  • on site marshalling to monitor social distancing
  • internal management checks
  • spot checks performed by our national Assurance team
  • a contracted external partner to conduct inspections
  • external public health and regulatory visits.

We also have an internal HMCTS Workplace Standards Group which continues to oversee our practice and methodology for maintaining hygienic, safe buildings in line with government guidance.

All suspected incidents and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our court and tribunal buildings in England and Wales, and tribunals in Scotland, are reported to HMCTS. Where there are two or more confirmed cases or an increase in suspected incidents within 14 days linked to a single site, a national team provides additional support and guidance to local court and tribunals in managing the response, and early identification of close contacts so they can be informed to self-isolate in support of NHS Test and Trace.

In line with public health guidance, where there are five or more confirmed cases (for England) or two or more confirmed cases (for Wales and Scotland) within a 14-day period we will refer them to local health protection teams who will assess the individual circumstances and provide any further advice and guidance. COVID-19 cases in HMCTS are in line with national trends and transmission within the estate is limited due to the mitigations in place.


Written Question
HM Courts and Tribunals Service: Remote Working
12 Feb 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether his Department plans to on increase the IT equipment and connectivity available to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service to support increased remote working.

Answered by Chris Philp

HMCTS has increased IT equipment and connectivity to support increased remote working. It has deployed 11,000 laptops since the beginning of the pandemic to assist with flexible working arrangements and has, so far, installed new video hardware to 482 court rooms. This is to increase the number of courtrooms capable of holding video-enabled hearings by installing video technology intended for use with strategic video platforms.


Written Question
Five Wells Prison
20 Jan 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the agreement of the G4S board to a £3.8bn takeover bid from Allied Universal, what assessment he has made of (a) the ability of Allied Universal to operate HMP Five Wells and (b) the potential merits of awarding the contract to run HMP Five Wells to the public sector.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

We are working closely with G4S to ensure there is no impact or disruption to the delivery of the services and obligations under each of G4S’ contracts with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. This includes the mobilisation of HMP Five Wells to the agreed delivery plan, ready to accept its first prisoners in January 2022. We will also continue to work closely with the Cabinet Office to ensure we understand and can consider any implications that arise through the takeover process.


Written Question
Courts
20 Jan 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many hearings have taken place (a) physically, and (b) virtually in court in each of the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Chris Philp

The following table sets out the number of physical compared to remote hearings in 2020. This data is unpublished and for internal management purposes.

May

June

July

August

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Physical

6,927

22,642

51,201

57,012

81,267

87,427

84,853

67,004

Remote

49,857

96,511

94,292

83,410

91,473

86,316

85,008

60,453

Cloud Video Platform (CVP) has been rolled out to over 150 Magistrates and 70 Crown Courts nationally. As of 8 January 2021, there have been over 70,000 hearings over CVP in the magistrates’ and Crown Court.

The decision to deal with a hearing or part of a hearing remotely is a matter for the judiciary, who have been considering restrictions, transmission rates, social distancing concerns and the nature of audio and video since the beginning of the pandemic.


Written Question
Prisoners' Transfers
20 Jan 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisoners have been transferred (a) between prisons and (b) from prison to court in each of the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) use private contractors to transfer prisoners across the prison estate. A breakdown of the numbers of transfers between prison establishments, and between prisons and courts that took place in each month during the last year is set out in the table below. The data for December 2020 has not yet been collated and therefore not currently available.

Dec 19

Jan 20

Feb 20

Mar 20

Apr 20

May 20

Jun 20

Jul 20

Aug 20

Sep 20

Oct 20

Nov 20

Inter Prison Transfer

4722

5496

5059

4930

972

2375

2776

3198

3509

4099

4434

4414

Prison to Court

11178

13655

12739

9938

523

1310

2691

5552

7300

6910

7788

7457

Private providers continue to play an important role in the prison estate. HMPPS continues to closely monitor the performance of all providers.

The safety of our staff and those under our supervision remains our top priority, and we have taken quick and decisive action – backed by Public Health England and Wales – to limit the spread of the virus. Regular testing of prisoners upon reception at prison establishments continues to be conducted, along with the use of Reverse Cohorting Units to limit possible spread from new arrivals.


Written Question
HM Courts and Tribunals Service: Security Guards
14 Jan 2021

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins (LAB - Luton South)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what his Department’s policy is on the eligibility of bids to provide HMCTS security guarding services from companies that that pay wages below the Living Wage Foundation certified living wage.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Ministry of Justice requires all of its suppliers to comply with the legal minimum standards of pay as set out in the Government’s National Living Wage legislation. Bids to provide HMCTS security guarding services were required to meet this minimum standard.