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UK planning to rent prison spaces from foreign countries, Justice Secretary says

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk (Peter Byrne/PA)
Martina Bet, PA Political Staff

The Justice Secretary has announced plans to rent prison spaces from foreign countries in order to address the increasing demands on the UK’s prison system.

Alex Chalk used his key note speech at the Tory Party conference in Manchester to announce the Government intends to look “at the Norwegian example and explore renting overseas capacity”.

The Ministry of Justice (Moj) says that while progress is made on the prison build programme, all necessary measures need to be taken to ensure “dangerous criminals continue to see the inside of a prison cell”.

The Government’s plans to create 20,000 extra prison places by the mid 2020s are reportedly delayed due to planning disagreements.

The plans that would see prisoners put in foreign jails would be delivered through legislation, which the MoJ said will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The next general election is scheduled to be held no later than January 28, 2025.

The proposed law would allow the Government to work with international partners on mutually beneficial agreements to house prisoners offshore, with exploratory discussions with possible partners in Europe having already taken place or ongoing.

Agreements would mean that prisoners in the UK could be moved to another country’s prison estate – provided the facilities, regime and rehabilitation provided meets British standards.

Mr Chalk said: “This Government is doing more than any since the Victorian era to expand prison capacity.

“Alongside our extra 20,000 prison places programme, refurbishment of old prisons and rapid deployment cells, renting prison places in other countries will ensure that we always have the space to keep the public safe from the most dangerous offenders.”

Prisons minister Damian Hinds also said: “Public protection is our top priority which is why we are rightly locking up the most dangerous offenders for longer. To do that, we must continue to ensure we have sufficient prison places.

“Renting space in foreign prisons is an established practice in other nations, and proves that only the Conservatives are committed to taking the tough action to make our streets safer.”

The UK’s prison population has grown substantially since 2020 and according to the latest figures, there are now 87,793 prisoners locked up.

As of September 29, capacity across the whole prison estate stood at 88,561.

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