Two of the district’s politicians are set to go head-to-head in a public debate on prison reform.

Baildon’s Liberal Democrat councillor John Cole has challenged Shipley MP Philip Davies after the Conservative politician said he wanted to see “an increase in the prison population.”

He made the remark as he spoke out against Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s plans to axe three prisons.

Coun Cole said he was “flabbergasted” at what he described as Mr Davies’s “disgracefully reactionary views”

He and Mr Davies have now agreed to hold the Question Time-style debate within the next few months.

In his e-mailed challenge to the MP, Coun Cole said: “I was flabbergasted when you came out with the statement that you want to see an increase in the prison population.

“I challenge you to share a public platform with me in Baildon in the next few months to debate penal policy.

“This will be an opportunity for you to defend or otherwise your words.”

Mr Davies replied: “I would be absolutely delighted to do this.”

The Tory MP has toured prisons across the country, speaking to governors, prisoners and guards.

He has repeatedly spoken out about the benefits of locking criminals up.

Mr Davies said: “I am absolutely looking forward to it. I want it to be in as big a place as possible and I just hope there’s a good turnout. It would be a bit of an anti-climax if there were only four people in the hall.”

Mr Davies said he would be setting out exactly why he feels prison works and how it reduces the crime rate He said he would use international comparisons to show that this country has a relatively-low prison population compared with the crime rate.

However, Coun Cole pointed to a Commons Justice Committee report published in January 2010, which highlighted the £40,000 cost of detaining a prisoner for a year. “That money could be better spent elsewhere,” he said.

Coun Cole said he wanted a “reasoned and informed” debate about the future of prisons.