MP calls for government to take over running of Parc Prison following deaths

  • Beth Winter MP questioned Justice Minister, Edward Argar MP, in the House of Commons earlier today (May 14).

The UK Government has faced calls to take over the running of HMP Parc from private firm G4S, amid concerns over a spate of deaths.

Nine adults have died at HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales, since the end of February, with four deaths so far linked to substance misuse and another potentially so.

Justice minister Edward Argar argued the contract “continues to perform well” although he acknowledged there is “more to do”.

G4S has managed the establishment since it opened in 1997 and it received a 10-year contract to continue operating it in 2022.

Labour MP Beth Winter asked: “Would the minister welcome a new inspection of Parc by the chief inspector?" Credit: Beth Winter

Labour MP Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) told justice questions: “The most recent inspectorate of prisons report into HMP Parc in 2022 found that almost half of prisoners had easy access to drugs and our current Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry into prisons has also received evidence regarding drug use, as well the fact that Parc is both under-staffed and the staff are inexperienced.”

Ms Winter pointed to this evidence, recent deaths and the recorded levels of violence in the prison, asking: “Would the minister welcome a new inspection of Parc by the chief inspector?

“And given the £400 million cost of the contract to G4S to run the prison, has he given consideration to the prison service stepping in to manage it as it has done with Birmingham prison?”

Mr Argar said X-ray body scanners and handheld devices are among the measures being rolled out to tackle drugs at HMP Parc.

He said: “Any inspection is a matter for the chief inspector of prisons.

“In terms of the overall performance of Parc, I think it’s important to remember that while there are challenges that were addressed in the urgent question (in the Commons) yesterday, Parc is a prison that is rated as performing well and a contract that is performing well.

Justice minister Edward Argar argued the contract “continues to perform well” although he acknowledged there is “more to do”. Credit: PA Images

“I think in the 2022 inspection it got one measure of ‘good’ and three of ‘reasonably good’. There is more to do and we will continue to work with the prison but the contract continues to perform well.”

In March, South Wales Police said it could not confirm the four drug-related deaths were connected to any specific drug.

It added a fast-track process had identified the presence of Nitazene-based substances in connection with all four deaths, with Spice identified in two of the four deaths.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: “Report after report, failure after failure. At Parc prison nine people have died in just two months, at Bedford cells were flooded with raw sewage.

“And at Wadsworth, a suspected terrorist escaped last year, the prison still isn’t secure, and the governor has resigned. She’s taken responsibility – when will he?”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk replied: “So she’s right that there are prisons where the standards are not where we want them to be.

“There are something like 120 prisons in the estate, and we are the party that created the urgent notification system so that these matters can be drawn to the attention of the Government.

“But I would just make this point as well, there are prisons where they have failed in the past and we have turned them around.

“Take HMP Liverpool – which I went to – and in 2017 (Sir Robert Neill) will remember there was a scathing report – it has been turned around, it is safe, decent, rehabilitative, prisoners are doing excellent work.

“Take HMP Chelmsford, which had a (urgent notification) and has been turned around.

“We take this incredibly seriously, but we are the party that is investing record amounts in our estate.”

An HMP Parc spokesperson said: "The safety of prisoners and staff is our number one priority, and our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who have died recently at HMP Parc.

"The vast majority of our staff are hard-working and honest. As with every other prison in the country, we work closely and effectively with the police and the HMPPS (HM Prison and Probation Service) counter-corruption team to crack down on the small number who may break the rules.

"We use a range of tactics to tackle the ingress of drugs and reduce demand. This includes robust security measures for staff, visitors and prisoners as well as substance misuse support to those in our care.

"Tough sanctions are imposed on prisoners found to be involved in drugs, including referral to the police for criminal investigation. Targeted and random mandatory drug testing is undertaken, as is the case in all prisons in England and Wales."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...