Contractors on the Prison Service’s framework have been called in to a meeting by John Reid, the home secretary, to discuss the provision of space for 8,000 extra prisoners by 2012.

Sources said that Reid wanted an update on the contractors’ progress. One said: “He wants to know if the government’s targets can be delivered, and if not, why not.”

The meeting, which is scheduled for next month, will be the first time that Reid has met the contractors since he was appointed to the Home Office in May last year.

It is understood that he has called the contractors in now because of mounting political pressure on the government to tackle overcrowding in prisons.

The eight contractors on the framework are Kier, Wates, Shepherd, Morrison (now owned by Galliford Try), Willmott Dixon, Interserve, Shaylor and Caledonian Building Systems.

The contractors are already under strong pressure to speed up the provision of the first 4,000 prison spaces.

This programme includes constructing extensions to prisons and providing temporary facilities.

The home secretary wants to know if the targets on jail accommodation can be delivered and, if not, why not

Source close to project

The framework contractors are in the process of bidding for two “temporary custodial facilities”, which will each provide 300 places. Contractors will have until the end of October to finish the projects.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As with any programme, we have procedures and arrangements for monitoring and controlling progress and ensuring we keep to timescales. We are in contact with the relevant suppliers and constructors all the time and ministers are regularly updated on progress.”

In a separate move Reid announced plans last month for two permanent prisons – one in Merseyside and one in London.

One of the jails will be in Maghull, near Liverpool, and the other next to Belmarsh prison in Woolwich, south-east London.

They are expected to provide an additional 1,300 spaces. The Woolwich prison has not received planning permission but the Maghull jail has.

Balfour Beatty announced this week that Centex, the US housebuilder it has agreed to buy, has won a £273m contract to build more than 2,000 housing units for the US Navy. The accommodation will be built at 11 bases in five states and will include community centres and other amenities. Construction is expected to start in November, with completion due by the end of 2012.