Thousands of soldiers to be trained to run prisons as the Government prepares for strikes

Soldiers will run prisons if guards go on strike as part of protests against public sector cuts, it was revealed today.

Thousands of troops will receive training in restraint techniques and fire safety as the Government prepares contingencies against a wave of industrial action.

Ministers expect staff to walk out over Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s plans to privatise two prisons and have drawn up plans with the Ministry of Defence, The Times reported.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Our aim is to avoid any form of industrial action and we will continue to talk to all unions to do everything possible to achieve that.

‘However given the risks and complexities involved in running prisons it is sensible and appropriate to review our contingency plans for dealing with widespread industrial action.

There was a previous trilateral agreement with the police and the military for the provision of support to prisons and we are currently reviewing those arrangements and working with the MoD and police to ensure that our contingency arrangements are as strong as possible.’

A source told The Times that as many as 3,000 soldiers will receive initial training beginning in April.