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Prison Capacity

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2020

We have committed more than £4 billion to deliver 18,000 additional prison places across the prison estate by the mid-2020s to support the Prime Minister’s commitment to crack down on crime. Those 18,000 prison places include the 10,000 places being made available through the construction of four new prisons, the expansion of a number of other prisons, refurbishment of the existing prison estate, and the completion of our ongoing prison builds at HMP Five Wells and Glen Parva.

Wymott bowling club has been based at HMP Wymott, near Ulnes Walton, for about 42 years. It is a fantastic part of the community, with a library in a portakabin because the old building associated with the prison estate had to be knocked down. It has some big ideas for a really good community resource, but it needs to know when the Ministry of Justice will finalise its plans. Can my hon. and learned Friend share when the community centre can have some certainty and get its exciting plans under way?

I am happy to do that. I really understand the value of community centres, and I am aware of the brilliant plans that Ms Kitching, the chair of Wymott bowling club, has for a new community centre. Work is under way to determine appropriate sites for other prisons, and we need to ensure that we do not release land we own that we might use in the future. We expect to make a decision on this in spring 2021. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that my officials are planning to meet Ms Kitching in mid-December to discuss this matter in more detail, and I would be happy to keep my hon. Friend updated.

Can my hon. and learned Friend confirm what types of offender will be prioritised for these new prison places and that the most dangerous criminals will be kept off our streets?

We anticipate that the additional places will deliver a mix of places based on population type and category, which will enable us to ensure that prisoners are kept in the right security category according to their risk assessment. In September, the Lord Chancellor published “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”, which sets out our plans for a system that protects the public. These reforms will ensure that serious sexual and violent offenders and those who are dangerous are kept in prison for longer.

England and Wales already have the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe. Shocking figures released last week show that the prison population is going to explode from 79,000 to 100,000 by 2026. Overcrowded, understaffed and crumbling prisons can never be safe. In 2016, the Conservatives pledged 10,000 extra prison places by 2020, but they have only managed 200. They pledged another 10,000 last year, but the Ministry of Justice says that the business case has not yet been approved. Trust matters in politics. It is fatally damaged when pledges are missed and promises are broken. The Secretary of State said last week that he would provide 18,000 new prison places. Why should anyone believe him?

The right hon. Member mentioned the fact that we had overcrowding. I would like to point out that overcrowded accommodation has gone down since the Labour Government in 2004. He also mentioned the increase in the prison population. That is not something that has just occurred under this Government. Labour failed to reduce the prison population, which increased by nearly 25,000 between 1997 and 2010. We have already made significant progress on the development of two prisons, and we have made a commitment to build others. Those plans are well under way, and we will be delivering them.