Sadiq Khan – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Ministry of Justice

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Sadiq Khan on 2014-04-29.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what extra capacity will be created by re-opening the closed wings at (a) HM Prison Hull and (b) HM Prison Chelmsford.

Jeremy Wright

We will always have enough prison places for those sent to us by the courts and continue to modernise the prison estate so that it delivers best value for the taxpayer

This Government has a long term strategy for managing the prison estate. We will have increased the adult male prison capacity so that we have more places than we inherited from the previous Government.

The retention of significant spare prison capacity over and above what is required is expensive and cannot be justified given the current financial climate. The mothballing of spare capacity at HM Prisons Chelmsford and Hull saved the taxpayer £3.6m in the financial year 2013-14. This compares to the significantly lower cost of maintaining this accommodation on a mothballed basis, so that it could be reactivated if necessary.

We have reviewed the refurbishment requirements at both sites and believe that, with minor investment, they can now be reopened on a contingency basis without carrying out a full refurbishment. These costs are anticipated to be around £132k by the time they have reopened. From the end of March to date, around £12k has been spent on Chelmsford, and around £107k has been spent on Hull.

The indicative additional staffing requirement to reactivate the places at Hull is around 65 members of staff – of which approximately 40 are uniformed. The indicative additional staffing requirement to reactivate the places at Chelmsford is around 30 members of staff – of which approximately 20 are uniformed grades. This means we are able to create additional places at an average cost of £7k per place (subject to final benchmarking review), as opposed to the average cost of a prison per place of £26,139.

The staffing requirement will initially be met by short term detached duty from other prisons, before looking to redeploy staff permanently where surpluses exist – and if necessary through external recruitment.

Subject to certification, Hull will create 282 places and Chelmsford 148 places, with prisoners due to start arriving this summer.

The reactivation of these places is a prudent and good value for money response to an increased prison population. Under the previous administration, police and court cells were turned into temporary prisons, with over 50,000 prisoners held in these cells in 2007-08 alone.