Welsh Government 'will not back new prisons'

A map showing the proposed Baglan site for the new prisonImage copyright
Getty Images

Plans for new prisons in Wales will not get the backing of Welsh ministers unless “meaningful” talks take place with the UK government, public services secretary Alun Davies has said.

His announcement follows calls for the Welsh Government to refuse to sell land for a planned Port Talbot super-prison.

Mr Davies told AMs it is not “in the interests” of people in Wales for more prisons to be developed in the country.

The Ministry of Justice said it is committed to a prison in the town.

Mr Davies has written to Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke calling for talks.

It emerged last year that the UK government was planning a new Category C prison for up to 1,600 prisoners on undeveloped land in Baglan Moors, which is owned by the Welsh Government.

Politicians from Plaid Cymru and Labour have urged ministers to refuse any request for the site, which is in an enterprise zone, and has been criticised for being too close to schools and residential properties.

Image caption

The site on Baglan Moors is located in an enterprise zone

In a statement, Mr Davies does not refer to the Baglan plans, but said: “I am concerned that without a meaningful an in-depth discussion with the UK government, we will continue to see increasing demand on Welsh public services and poorer outcomes for people in the criminal justice system in Wales.

“I am particularly concerned that some of the men and women in Wales who are sent to prison are not receiving the services and support they need to ensure that they can be effectively rehabilitated and supported not to re-offend.”

He added: “Until we have considered this in more detail and had more detailed discussions with the UK government, I do not believe it is in the interests either of the Welsh Government or people in Wales, to see further prison development in Wales.

“I have therefore written to the secretary of state for justice to inform him that until a more meaningful dialogue with the Welsh Government takes place, we will not facilitate the further development of prisons in Wales.”

The news was welcomed by Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock and Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed, who said she believed the Baglan Moors prison would not now go ahead.

She said: “We’ve been pressing for the Welsh Government to see the light on this, and it looks like they now have, albeit after a year of mixed messages and indecision. I’m sure that the local campaign in Port Talbot against a new prison, has certainly gone a long way to influence the Welsh Government as well.”

Nearly 9,000 people signed a petition against the proposals last year.

Officials at the Welsh Government had put forward 20 potential sites for a new prison but the list was whittled down to three before the land on the Baglan Industrial Park site was chosen.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We are investing £1.3bn to reform the prison estate – replacing older prisons with high-quality, modern establishments and supporting local communities.

“In Wales alone this will potentially create up to 500 jobs and contribute £11m a year to the regional economy.

“We remain committed to building a prison in Port Talbot, and continue to engage with local communities, businesses and other stakeholders.”

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