Political News Updates

11.03.2016

Parliamentary Briefing - Prison Smoking Ban

It has long been POA policy to see a full smoking ban introduced across all prisons throughout England and Wales. We believe that this is a health and safety issue and that staff and offenders in our prisons should not be exposed to second hand smoke.

It is unfortunate that, despite report after report, both published and withheld, telling the Secretary of State, Ministers and NOMS officials that the prevalence of second hand smoke in prisons is dangerous to the health and safety of staff and offenders, alike they have chosen to spend tax payers money to find loopholes in UK Law to allow them to abdicate their responsibilities in this issue.

On Tuesday 8th March 2016 a ruling by three court of appeal judges – Lord Dyson, master of the rolls, Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice David Richards – concluded that the ban on smoking in public places does not apply to state prisons and other crown premises in England and Wales.

This ruling by these three top Judges means that the Health Act 2006 will not legally bind crown properties which include prisons to implement a smoking ban which applies to the rest of society. The Ministry have stated that the smoking ban will be implemented but this is only being done “as a matter of policy.”

Following the long standing campaign by the POA, air-quality tests carried out last year in six establishments showed staff were spending at least one-sixth of their time exposed to second hand smoke that were at levels higher than World Health Organisation standards.

What the POA find most offensive is that we have been telling successive Ministers about this problem since the introduction of the Health Act and NOMS have consistently refused, until now, to put in place any plans to comply with the legislation. The Union still feels that the spending of tax payers’ money to fight this claim shows a complete disregard to the spending of public funds to fight a case using arcane laws regarding crown immunity when they plan to introduce the ban anyway.

There remain other reports, also produced at public expense that the Government has in its position that they are refusing to publish. The POA believe that the refusal to publish these papers is due to the damning nature of the findings they contain.

The POA call on Members of Parliament to ask questions of the Secretary of State, Ministers and Senior Officials within NOMS as to the costs involved in fighting this case and on their reasons for spending public money to fight against a policy they plan to introduce on a voluntary basis.

We believe it was unnecessary and unjustifiable.