John Baron MP has today challenged Justice Secretary Jack Straw on his statement about new prisons, including plans to build a 1,500 inmate prison on the Runwell Hospital site in Wickford. The statement in Parliament comes after John forced the Ministry of Justice to publish a list of sites under consideration for ‘Titan’ prisons last year. Titan prisons have now been abandoned by the Government, but some of the possible sites are being taken forward for a larger number of smaller jails, including Runwell, Wickford.
I am pleased the Government has finally come clean about it plans for a local prison after fighting my Freedom of Information request over the last year.That Wickford has been identified as the site of a prison is not good news. That it has been done in this underhand way is despicable. It is vital that the communities are involved in this sort of process from the earliest.
The Government should now come clean about its shabby consultation process regarding these new prisons. My FOI request clearly showed that Ministers had hoped to buy land before consulting local residents – an approach the Information Commissioner condemned. This statement today proves nothing has changed and shows complete arrogance by the Government.
I continue to press the Government on the need for a full consultation with local residents. All views should be taken into account from the earliest possible stage, otherwise to consult after a site has been earmarked is nothing but a sham.