HC Deb 18 June 1992 vol 209 cc1031-2
12. Mr. Kilfoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners are currently held in Walton gaol.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Yesterday, 1,205 prisoners were being held in Her Majesty's prison, Liverpool.

Mr. Kilfoyle

Given that the prison is the largest of its kind in the country, and given the close proximity of other penal institutions across north Merseyside, how can the Minister justify proposals to build another prison a mile away at Fazakerley in my constituency, and to introduce prison ships on the River Mersey? Does he not understand that the recommendations of the Woolf report on prisons in the community did not mean that all the prisons should be built in my area?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He has referred to other establishments. Certainly, there is an assessment centre for disturbed juveniles in the area, but that belongs to the local authority. There is a secure psychiatric hospital at Ashworth; that belongs to the national health service. Neither of those establishments belong to the prison service.

The prison at Walton is overcrowded. We do not believe in keeping prisoners in overcrowded conditions. There is no proper place for young offenders on remand, and there is a need on Merseyside. A study by the Office of Population Census and Surveys of the prison system suggested that some 1,900 prisoners had Merseyside origins; even when the prison is built at Fazakerley, there will be only 1,600 places for them in Liverpool.

Mr. Gill

Does my hon. Friend agree that the amount of interest shown in prison overcrowding during today's Question Time does not reflect the concern of our constituents? They are more concerned about the incidence of crime and its victims.

Mr. Lloyd

The supplementary question to which I am replying is not on all fours with the sentiments expressed earlier about overcrowding by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). We have put in a planning application and we shall see what the council says. I shall take close notice of its views.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy

Given that Liverpool is already the home of Walton prison, Ashworth and Dyson hall, will the Minister accept that many of my constituents are outraged at the proposal to build a further prison at Fazakerley? Does he have plans to privatise that prison?

Mr. Lloyd

We have no current plans to privatise that prison. As I explained earlier to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), the assessment centre belongs to the county council. It is not for prison service occupation but for disturbed juveniles who are not inside the prison system. The same applies to the psychiatric hospital. There is a need for extra prison places on Merseyside and our proposal would provide them.