Prison officers should be searched in a bid to crack down on “corruption”, a former minister has urged.

Labour former justice minister David Hanson made the comments as MPs heard how the prison system was in a state of “crisis”.

Mr Hanson, who sits on the Justice Committee, also called for netting to be placed over certain prisons as a means to stop drugs being thrown in.

The Delyn MP made the suggestions as ministers heard details of the Justice Committee’s latest reports on prison reform.

The committee noted in their reports that the prison population is currently at a “historic” high and that levels of violence, drug use and self harm are at “unacceptably high levels”.
Mr Hanson said the system was facing “real challenges” because of funding cuts and a spike in the use of psychoactive substances.

Making a number of recommendations to the Government benches he said: “I think it’s important that the minister looks at introducing planned searches in prisons of prisoners.

“I think it’s important that the minister looks at prison officers particularly and whether there should be searches of prison officers and delivery staff.

“I spoke to prison officers this week who would welcome that, they want to weed out potential corruption amongst members of staff, and I think it’s important that we have some indication of how that’s going to be undertaken generally.”

“I’d like to see whether the minister wants to undertake particularly further steps to ensure that all Category C prisons have netting around them to stop individuals throwing material into prisons for drugs.”

Senior Tory Bob Neill, chairman of the Justice Committee, said the current system was in “crisis”.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah conceded that the prison system did “face unprecedented challenges” but said that the Government had a “clear and confident” plan to face them.

Mr Gyimah said: “Investing in intelligence, investing in technology, rolling out a drug strategy, increasing an urgent notification process, giving more power to the inspectorate – these are all things that will solve the issues in our prisons.

“Prisons are and have always been difficult places to manage but there is significant investment going in to tackle the problems that we have.

“As I have always said it will not be done overnight but the actions that I am outlining today show our determination and our will to overcome these problems and to make sure that prisons are places of safety but also of reform.”