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New Prison, Honeybourne

Volume 656: debated on Thursday 29 March 1962

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the position concerning proposals to establish a security prison in Worcestershire, with particular reference to the suggested site at Honeybourne.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reasons the Prison Commissioners propose to establish a prison at Honeybourne, Worcestershire, instead of at Malvern, Worcestershire; and whether he will make a statement on projected prison building in Worcestershire.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the proposed prison at Honeybourne, Worcestershire, is not to be sited in a less populated area.

The prison building programme includes several regional training prisons which should be within a reasonable distance of the main centres of population. The Honeybourne site was selected in preference to several others in the light of the views expressed by the Worcestershire County Council, who have suggested that a public inquiry into the proposal should be held. No other new prisons are at present contemplated in Worcestershire, but additional buildings for use as a remand centre are being provided at Hewell Grange Borstal.

Will my hon. and learned Friend take note that there is opposition to the siting of a prison in south Worcestershire, particularly on the Honeybourne site, coming from people who fear for the safety of their families and in other cases fear the loss of value to their property from the propinquity of a prison? Before deciding whether to go ahead with this project, will he arrange to have a local public inquiry held at which the people can state their views?

The form of the public inquiry will depend upon a certain amount of information which we are still awaiting from the Worcestershire County Council. Of course, everybody is in favour of more prisons, but nobody wants a prison near him.

Will my hon. and learned Friend say how large this prison is intended to be? Is it intended to hold 1,000 prisoners or 2,000 prisoners? What sort of prison is it? Is it a prison without bars? Is it a prison for desperate and hardened criminals or for first offenders—or what type of prison is it? I recognise my hon. and learned Friend's difficulties in siting establishments of this kind.

It is not a prison without bars. It is not a large prison. It must be near a main centre of population such as Birmingham, South Wales or Bristol because of visits from prisoners' relatives, home leave schemes and, above all, from the point of view of prison officers.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that although Worcestershire County Council may think that this is a suitable site, it is very near the borders of Gloucestershire and a very large village in my constituency and that the local residents take considerable exception to it? Will he confirm that it would be a good idea for a public inquiry to be held so that all these objections may be heard in the proper way?

It is a good idea that public inquiries should be held. When they are held they considerably ease the anxieties of villagers, large and small, whether in Worcestershire or in Gloucestershire. I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents will be relieved, when the time comes, of some of their fears.

As Hewell Grange is in my constituency and this is the first that I have heard of this remand home, may I ask my hon. and learned Friend to give me further information about it?