THE first food smokery to be installed at a government run prison was officially opened this week at HMP Haverigg, near Millom.

The joint venture is between the prison and Port of Lancaster Smoke house, based at Glasson Dock.

Its proprieters Michael and John Price were among guests invited inside the jail to see a plaque unveiled by Steve Broomhead, chief executive of North West Development Agency, which also gave financial backing to the scheme.

Prison governor Clive Chatterton said he had the idea after a chance remark at a farmers' market about there not being many food smoke houses in the Lake District area.

He approached Glasson Dock to see if they could give advice and they enthusiastically became involved.

Haverigg prison has recently expanded with a new block for 64 prisoners, bringing the capacity for the C category jail up to 650.

Mr Chatterton said there had to be a new activity centre along with the increased capacity and the £400,000 unit provided training for food and leisure, motor mechanics and education.

But the smoke house is the first in a British prison and is seen as a significant development for the prison and the community of Haverigg.

"It enables prisoners to learn new skills and increases the opportunity for them to find work in the growing leisure and food processing industries. If prisoners can get a job on release from prison they are far less likely to re-offend.," said Mr Chatterton.

Mr Broomhead praised Glasson Dock for genuine social conscience and the prison for its magnificent efforts.

The ceremony was followed by a buffet lunch featuring smoked haddock, eels, bacon, black pudding and halibut, foods which helped the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse to gain the overall winner of the hotly contested 2007 North WestFine Food Producer of the Year Awards.

Established over thirty years ago, the company has recently become so successful that it has run out of space atits home base. The prison smokery, already employing four people, apart from the prisoners involved, gives them increased production capacity.

Mr Michael Price said the company was still to decide whether to promote the prison link in its marketing and packaging.