MPs criticise decision over closure of Wellingborough Prison

MP Peter Bone and prisons minister Jeremy Wright at a press conference after visiting Wellingborough Prison last year
MP Peter Bone and prisons minister Jeremy Wright at a press conference after visiting Wellingborough Prison last year

MPs have urged the Ministry of Justice to reconsider its decision to close Wellingborough Prison.

Conservative MPs Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone urged the Government to reconsider plans to get rid of the prison.

Wellingborough Prison

Wellingborough Prison

Mr Bone, MP for Wellingborough and Rushden, said: “You are completely and utterly wrong.

“Wellingborough Prison is on a brownfield site, has massive room for expansion; people want an expanded prison there; millions of pounds have been invested in the prison.”

Addressing the Prisons Minister during justice questions, the MP asked: “Would you, Minister, meet with me to look at this again before finally making a disastrous mistake?”

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright pointed out that a meeting was already arranged between himself and Mr Bone, but he would not be swayed with regards to the prison.

The prison closed last December.

He said: “Since then, we have looked at whether the site should form part of our long-term capacity plan, and we have concluded it should not.

“It is therefore in the taxpayer’s interest to avoid unnecessary holding costs and to dispose of the site.

“But I’m afraid I do not accept that this was the wrong decision.

“We will discuss it in more detail on Monday, but the original decision to close the prison, as you know, was based on the fact that substantial financial investment would have been needed to bring it up to the required standard.

“The decision not to retain the site was, as I say, after careful consideration that because looking at the estate as a whole, we concluded that it simply didn’t fit our strategic needs.”

Mr Hollobone, MP for Kettering, came to Mr Bone’s defence.

Mr Hollobone said: “Can I gently suggest to you that I think the governmental papers must have got muddled on this particular prison, because it’s extremely cost-effective, one of the lowest costs per prisoner across the whole of the prison estate.

“And you say there’s lots of money needed to improve the site, but having gone around it myself, I simply don’t think that that is the case.

“Can I just urge you to take Mr Bone’s advice and look again at this wrong decision?”

In response, Mr Wright said: “My job is to look at the prisoner estate across the country.

“I’m afraid that you are not correct in relation to the costs of running a prison.

“The costs of running a prison are made up of several components and a significant one is the cost of maintenance, the costs of maintaining the standards of the accommodation, that’s what costs - on our estimates - £50 million to bring up to standard.

“That’s why we concluded it was right to close the prison.

“There’s a separate consideration, of course, as to whether it’s right to retain the site, and as I have explained we have decided that that isn’t the right thing to do.”

The closure of the jail last year resulted in the loss of almost 600 prison places.

Former justice secretary Ken Clarke said closing the category C prison in Northamptonshire would save £10m per year.