asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reduce the number of prisoners held in police cells; and if he will make a statement.
The use of police and court cells to hold prisoners is one of the most worrying day-to-day problems in the penal system. Prisoners held by the police cannot get all the facilities to which they would be entitled in prison, and they represent a burden that the police should194W not be expected to bear. I do not intend to allow the present practice to become a permanent feature of the criminal justice scene. I am pleased to say that the number of prisoners being held in this way in the south-east has fallen from a peak of 476 on 14 June to 327 last night as a result of strenuous efforts to bring new accommodation into use in the prison system.
I am determined to ensure that, subject to unforeseen circumstances, the use of police cells is eliminated before the end of the year. I am reviewing what further measures may be needed in the longer term to prevent a recurrence of this use of police cells.