§ Mr. Alex Carlile
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the statutory minimum size of prison cells; 
(2) what is the average cell size per inmate in prisons in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what is the (a) average cell size and (b) current average number of prisoners per cell, in each prison in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. 155W
§ Miss Widdecombe
[holding answer 7 March 1996]: Responsibility for these matters has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from A. J. Pearson to Mr. Alex Carlile, dated 19 March 1996:
The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Questions about average cell size and average number of prisoners per cell in each prison in England and Wales and the statutory minimum size of prison cells.
Information regarding the size of cells is not collected centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
With regard to the number of prisoners per cell, the position at the end of January this year was that some 8,488 prisoners were housed two to a cell which was designed for one person. There were no instances of three prisoners sharing a single cell.
There is no statutory minimum size for existing prison cells, although Prison Service operating standards do lay down an ideal minimum size of 5.5 square metres. Section 14 of the Prisons Act 1952 requires cells to be certified as being fit as regards their size, lighting, heating, ventilation and fittings.