To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners in England and Wales are presently serving a life sentence; and what is the total annual cost of keeping these prisoners in custody. 
The latest available information is for 30 September 1997. On that date there were 3,794 life sentence prisoners in England and Wales. Information on life sentence prisoners is also published in "Prison Statistics, England and Wales" (Chapter 8 of the 1996 edition, Cm 3732), a copy of which is in the Library.Information on the cost of prisoners by their type of sentence is not collected centrally. The average annual net operating cost of a prison place in 1996–97 was £24,775.