Aberavon MP, Stephen Kinnock, has called on the new Minister for Prisons to call time on the UK Government’s plans to build a prison in Port Talbot, describing the idea as a ‘non-starter’ and saying the plans should be ‘scrapped with immediate effect’. In their first clash in the House of Commons since Rory Stewart’s appointment, Mr Kinnock pressed the Minister to abandon the Ministry of Justice’s proposals, and encouraged him to visit Port Talbot to attend a public meeting and hear directly from concerned residents about their opposition to the proposals.
Speaking in the chamber, Mr Kinnock said, ‘the problem is that the proposed site is right next to residential areas, schools and a care home; is served by very poor transport links; is on a designated enterprise zone; is on marshland; and is restricted by a covenant saying that it can only be used as an industrial park. The Minister must surely agree therefore that the whole idea is a non-starter and should be scrapped with immediate effect.’
In response Mr Stewart said, ‘The hon. Gentleman has made those points on a number of occasions. We are listening very carefully. Indeed, two members of our Department travelled to Port Talbot, to a very lively public meeting where those points were made repeatedly. We are listening very carefully to him.’
The Aberavon MP then went on to press the Minister on attending the public meeting scheduled for 12 April, ‘As the Minister knows, there has already been a public meeting in my constituency about the prison there. He will be delighted to know that we have organised another on 12 April, to which he has been invited. May I encourage him to come and meet my constituents to hear directly their concerns, and I can guarantee that he will receive a warm welcome in the valleys?
Mr Stewart’s response, ‘I am very grateful. There is almost no Member of Parliament who has been more assiduous on this subject, with, I think, five meetings in the past six weeks. There was a vigorous encounter between my officials and the hon. Gentleman’s community on their last visit. I would like very much to have the next meeting here in London, if that is possible, and I would be delighted to discuss the issues on that occasion.’