New doubt cast on North Wales prison plan

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

PLANS to build a prison in the region could be in doubt.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas says the answer to a question he raised in Parliament makes him believe the issue has been “put on the back burner”.

A few years ago the Labour Government began searching for a site for a new prison to serve North Wales.

Wrexham put in a bid to locate it at the former Firestone factory on the town’s industrial estate, but lost out when ministers opted for a site in Caernarfon.

That scheme fell through however, and when a new search began Wrexham Council re-submitted the Firestone site, along with the former Owens Corning fibreglass factory.

Now Mr Lucas asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Crispin Blunt, what recent discussions he has had with Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan on the prison proposals.

The reply stated the Ministry of Justice was “committed to publishing a Green Paper on rehabilitation and sentencing”, following which “the MoJ will re-evaluate its strategy for prison capacity”.

Mr Lucas said the Green Paper would be a consultative document preceding a White Paper and legislation.

He said: “To me that indicates the scheme has been put on the back burner. Another indication of this was that when Mrs Gillan and Mr Blunt opened a new prison at Bridgend, they made no mention of a prison for North Wales.

“If they have decided not to go ahead they should have told people in this region of their position.”

He added: “While I support the idea of a prison for North Wales, I have always been against it being in Wrexham.

“The present Government’s policy seems to be reduce the number of prisons so there doesn’t seem any chance of one being built in Wrexham in the forseeable future.”

Delyn Labour MP and former Prisons Minister David Hanson agreed with Mr Lucas’s assessment.

He said: “The Ministry of Justice is reducing its capital spending between 2011 and 2014/15 by 50 per cent. So whatever they do in a Green Paper about extra prison capacity in general they are only going to have half as much money to spend.”

A Prison Service spokesman told the Leader it was looking at the full range of penalties available in the criminal justice system.

He added: “Long-term decisions on prison capacity programmes will be taken in the light of these policy developments.”

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