The Treasury will provide the Ministry of Justice with up to £2.5bn of funding for extra prison places as part of a plan to crack down on violent crime, the prime minister has announced.
Boris Johnson said the money would be used to create 10,000 extra prisons places as he vowed to "come down hard on crime".
Johnson said he wanted "criminals to be afraid – not the public", as he also gave the go-ahead for more police use of stop-and-search powers.
Johnson has also ordered an urgent review of sentencing policy for serious violent crime, saying the government had "no choice but to insist on tougher sentencing laws for serious sexual and violent offenders, and for those who carry knives".
While he acknowledged that would mean "more pressure on our jails" – almost two-thirds of which are currently classed as over-crowded – the prime minister vowed to create 10,000 new spaces to try and tackle the problem.
"The chancellor, Sajid Javid, has agreed to invest up to £2.5bn to deliver this commitment," he said.
"Frankly, this investment is long overdue. It is not enough just to catch the criminals, punish them and deter them from further crime. We must also do far more to turn their lives around, because our penal system is woefully ill-equipped to rehabilitate and reform."
The first prison to be built will be at HMP Full Sutton, plans for which were announced in January as part of the MoJ’s existing £1.3bn prison estates transformation programme.
The estates strategy was put in place in 2016, tied to a Conservative Party manifesto pledge to build up to 10,000 prison places to tackle overcrowding. Plans to build two new prisons in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and Glen Parva in Leicestershire, which would account for around a third of that figure, were announced last year.
Johnson’s announcement today supersedes the existing commitment, the MoJ said, and does not include the Wellingborough and Glen Parva facilities.
At the time of publication, the MoJ had not yet clarified whether the £2.5bn being allocated to Johnson’s reforms included the money already allotted to the estates strategy in the 2015 Spending Review.
The first new prison to be built using the funds will be at HMP Full Sutton, plans for which were announced in 2017, the MoJ said.
The latest annual crime survey for England and Wales shows that there was an 8% increase in the number of knife offences recorded by police over the past year, with a 3% year-on-year rise in firearms incidents. Knife-related homicides are meanwhile at their highest level since 1946.
Johnson – who clashed with then-home secretary Theresa May over moves to rein in controversial police stop-and-search powers when he was mayor of London – said ministers were now "making clear that the police can and should make use" of those tools.
Police will be able to make greater use of so-called Section 60 orders, which allow officers to search somebody without suspicion if they are in an area where they believe an offence is about occur.
Johnson said: "We are extending an existing pilot so that 8,000 more officers can decide to deploy stop-and-search across an area without a senior officer needing to give the go-ahead."
The latest government figures show that black people are still nine-and-a-half times more likely than white people to be targeted by stop-and-search powers, with Labour warning that the boost to Section 60 powers marked a "recipe for unrest".
But Johnson said: "I know stop-and-search is controversial. I know that left-wing criminologists will object. And, of course, it is right that stop-and-search should be done courteously and in accordance with the law – something that the use of police body cameras has helped to support.
"But I also know that the people who back this intervention most fervently are often the parents of the kids who are so tragically foolish as to go out on the streets equipped with a knife, endangering not only the lives of others but their own."