HC Deb 22 February 1990 vol 167 cc1054-5
6. Mr. Heffer

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will again reconsider the proposal to build a new prison in Fazakerley, Liverpool, bordering the Fazakerley hospital.

Mr. Mellor

I am afraid that I see no grounds for reconsidering the proposed scheme. Contracts have now been exchanged for the purchase of the site, and we shall shortly be approaching the Department of the Environment for a local public inquiry to be set up into the proposed scheme so that all relevant points of view might be aired and considered.

Mr. Heffer

That is a very disappointing answer. According to a written reply from the Minister, his Department considered 40 other sites for the new prison in the past two years. Why did the Department decide on a site immediately next to a hospital, in an area surrounded by housing? The city council, the local health authority, the parish council, local people and just about everyone else oppose the proposal. Why are the Government persisting with it when many other sites in the area and the surrounding districts could be used instead? Do the Government consider that we in Liverpool are a special type, and that we should become the prison centre of the north-west? We already have prisons there; why must we have another almost next door to an existing prison?

Mr. Mellor

The two most recent questions from Opposition Members about prisons reveal the Home Office's difficulties. On the one hand, complaints are made about old and overcrowded prisons; on the other, complaints are made when we propose to build a new one. The hon. Gentleman asks why the prison cannot be built somewhere else, but I dare say that others would object to that.

After the most exhaustive consideration, we believe that Fazakerley is the right site—[Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Gentleman shouting at me from a sedentary position. I have announced today a public inquiry at which all legitimate points can be put and considered, and that is the proper way for such matters to be dealt with.

Mr. Loyden

The Minister is misleading the House to some extent. My hon. Friend did not say—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not alleging that the Minister is misleading the House deliberately.

Mr. Loyden

He is doing so inadvertently, however, by suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) opposes what we all recognise as the urgent need for more prisons to be developed and built. His point was that the community that he represents as a Member of Parliament, which includes a large housing estate, renders the site inappropriate for building a prison. Should not the Minister make a decision about the problem in view of the strong feelings throughout Liverpool—not merely in my hon. Friend's constituency?

Mr. Mellor

We cannot reject every site that is available for a new prison because people do not want it there. People are fully entitled to object to a prison being sited in their community. We are providing for a local public inquiry at which the wheat can be separated from the chaff and the legitimate arguments from the illegitimate. We shall be bound by the decision that is reached. What could be fairer than that?

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