Justice Secretary Ken Clarke admits plans for cheap prison work could jeopardise jobs

 

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke tonight admitted his department’s plans to double the number of prisoners working in the UK could jeopardise the job prospects of the law abiding.

Mr Clarke said he was “anxious to guard against” normal British businesses being undercut by firms employing prisoners and conceded it would be “a very serious downside” if prison work programmes started “replacing job opportunities for law abiding people”, and promised safeguards to prevent it.

Mr Clarke was speaking after The Independent today revealed details of the Government plans to get nearly 20,000 prisoners working within ten years. Prisoners are not paid the minimum wage and unions have launched an investigation into whether the expansion in undercutting the labour market.

But in an interview for the BBC Mr Clarke said this was something the department had been working to prevent.

“Of course that would be the biggest fear, and it’s been one of the things I’ve been most anxious to guard against since we started,” he said.

“We’ve been doing this for the best part of two years and I’m surprised the POA [Prison Officer’s Association] are suddenly getting uneasy about it. We’ve got a code of practice which we’ve agreed with the CBI, we’ve been discussing it with the TUC - I can’t get them to sign it, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it from their point of view - to ensure that we're not going in for price competition with honest local employers or any other employers outside the prison.

“It would be a very serious downside if we started replacing job opportunities for law abiding people, and we’ve been conscious of that all the way through.

"We are going to price those things that are produced and prison and sold on the basis that they are not going in for price competition outside. It isn’t actually much cheaper to produce goods or services in prisons, because you've got all the security, the constraints of going in and out of a prison. Although we don’t pay the prisoners the minimum wage, normally you can’t start undercutting British businesses outside.

“For that reason, however, we’ve just tried to ensure in our code of practice that we will not price on a basis that threatens honest businesses, and of course, that will be vetted by ourselves and by the CBI, who are totally supportive of what we’re doing. It’s the best way of getting more of our prisoners to stop being criminals and to stop committing further offences.

“When they’ve served their punishment, finished their sentence and come into the outside world, they’ve got work experience, they’ve got some training...quite a lot of the employers we’re attracting in actually hire the keenest and best staff, who are drawn in the first place from volunteers inside the prison usually, so there’s no question either of people being forced to work for comparatively low wages compared with the outside world.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Search Engine Optimisation/ SEO Executive

£25000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Programme Planner

£30000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Infrastructure Test Lead

£55000 - £60000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Our c...

Messaging Support Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Messa...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor