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Reading Gaol

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

The sale of Reading Prison is proceeding and, barring any unexpected complications, completion is expected later this autumn.

I thank the Minister for his answer, and for meeting me and the right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma) recently to discuss this matter. Reading Gaol is a hugely important historic building, and nearly 13,000 people across Berkshire have now signed a petition asking the Government to work with me and the local arts community to turn the gaol into an arts hub. It has taken the Government a long time to discuss the proposed sale with their preferred bidder and no progress—or slow progress—appears to be being made. Will the Minister now reconsider the Government’s approach and work with me, Reading Borough Council and the local arts community to save this wonderful building?

The sale is progressing. Of course, any proposed development would be subject to approval from Reading Borough Council’s planning department, and the usual due diligence requirements and so on will apply.

We quite often throw around the term “doughty campaigner” in this Chamber, but I can certainly say that the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), his neighbour, have been incredibly assiduous in their attention to this matter on behalf of their constituents. In turn, I commit to him that we will absolutely stay in touch.