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Volume 520: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2010

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Northern Ireland Executive on future provision of prisons in Northern Ireland. (29914)

The provision of prisons is now entirely a matter for the devolved Administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s statement to the House of 4 November outlined the discussions he has had with Justice Minister David Ford on the recommendations in the Billy Wright inquiry report.

Will the Government’s spending decisions have any impact on potential new capital projects such as Magilligan prison and the new police training college?

The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. As we have said before in the House, we are committed to standing by the terms of the policing and justice financial settlement, which will enable the Executive to come to their own view about new capital expenditure, including on Magilligan prison, and we are closer to that with the announcement of the draft budget today, in respect of which we are very grateful to all the parties.

In the last couple of days the Prison Service has received some adverse publicity from certain sections of the Northern Ireland media. The Prison Officers Association has stated that it accepts that some degree of change is needed. What discussions has the Minister had with the POA to bring the service forward and to get a balance, which is clearly what we need?

I have, of course, followed those comments and seen the various interviews with the Justice Minister, David Ford. These are devolved matters: prisons are the responsibility of the Department of Justice. We follow these matters closely, but they are best left to those properly in charge of them.