§ Mr. Malins
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimates he has made of the consequent reduction in prison numbers if suspended sentences of imprisonment were more widely available to the judiciary. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
Estimates of the likely effect on the prison population vary between a few hundred and a few thousand depending upon the exact nature of the new arrangements introduced, whether the sentences they replaced were custodial or non-custodial, the length of any such custodial sentences and the rate of activation of the new suspended sentences. The current restriction, which limits suspension of a custodial sentence to cases where exceptional circumstances exist, was introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Criminal Statistics for England and Wales 1997 show that the number of offenders sentenced for indictable offences to a fully suspended sentence fell from 25,800 in 1987 to 2,700 in 1993.