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Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 18 October 2006

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on all matters that affect Wales, and last week I had a meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for prisons.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Before the Welsh Affairs Committee’s investigation takes place, will he look into the question of custody for 17 and 18-year-olds—given that there are only 36 places for them in Wales, none of which is in mid-Wales or north Wales—so that he will be able to respond properly to the Committee’s investigation later in the Session?

I had some difficulty hearing what the hon. Gentleman was saying, but I understand that he was expressing concern about young people in prison. That is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was listening to his question. I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of the prison estate before and asked whether it would be possible to establish a prison in north Wales. Following my discussions with the Minister with responsibility for prisons, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, if a suitable site can be identified in north Wales, the Home Office will give the matter very serious consideration. Perhaps he would like to contact the Minister directly if he has any sites to promote.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Parc Supporting Family Forum, which works with prisoners in Parc prison in my constituency to roll out programmes to prevent reoffending and to ensure that family links with prisoners are maintained? Will he also urge Bridgend county borough council—

I congratulate the organisation that is working so hard in my hon. Friend’s constituency. It is accepted that we need to maintain family links for prisoners, so that they improve their opportunities for rehabilitation and we prevent reoffending when they are discharged.

As the Minister is aware, all female Welsh prisoners are housed outside Wales. I have had a case recently of a female prisoner being held at Drake Hall—a great distance from her three children and her terminally ill husband. Given the importance of sustaining family relationships both to the successful reintegration of ex-offenders into our communities and to ensuring that children do not develop offending behaviour, what discussions has he had with the Home Office to improve the situation for female prisoners?

Again, that will be part of the review of new prison sites, and the Home Secretary announced a few days ago that 8,000 new places are to be created. The issue of women prisoners from Wales will form part of that review, as I understand it.