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Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and others on a range of offender management issues, as well as on prisons in Wales.

Why are there so many drugs in prisons, and why is it that a number of young offenders in Wales enter prison as mild drug users, but come out as hardened addicts? Is it not a disgrace that some wings in prisons, including prisons in Wales, have been designated “drug-free” wings? Surely that is a dreadful indictment of Ministers, because every wing of every prison should be drug-free.

I assume that the hon. Gentleman has visited some of the prisons in Wales, as I have, and seen some of the drug-free wings that he talks about, where the policy is clearly to encourage and work with prisoners who have made a clear decision to give up entirely on drugs, and to make sure that they do not take them. That policy is working: 8.6 per cent. of mandatory drug tests in prisons gave positive results in 2006-07, compared with 20 per cent. 10 years ago. The rate of those testing positive for the use of opiates has fallen by more than 25 per cent. in the past 10 years. Yes, there is more to do and we are working on that, but our investment in drugs treatment in prisons is working, whereas before there was failure.

The reason we have drug-free wings in prison is that we do not have any drug-free prisons. Is it not a continuing disgrace that under Governments of both parties we have never been able to control drugs in prisons? The tragedy that continues these days is that people who go in as users and come out clean, who are put down as successes for the prison system, often die very quickly. Two of my constituents came out of prison drug-free: one lived a week, and another lived a day.

My hon. Friend makes an important point not only about rehabilitation and drug treatment in prisons, but about the aftercare of people who come out into the community and the treatment that is made available to them. He will welcome, as I do, the more than 7,500 drug treatment programmes completed in prisons in England and Wales in 2006-07. That figure is 30 per cent. above the target, so we are doing the right things and heading in the right direction, but we recognise, as always, that we need to do more.

The Minister is complacent. I think that things will get worse in Wales, because more than 58 per cent. of women prisoners have drug addictions, the reoffending rate among women is now 60 per cent., and there are no women’s prisons in Wales, so they are treated on programmes through English primary care trusts. Given the growing differences between the English and Welsh health systems and the poverty of supply of drug rehabilitation places, how can we ensure the continuity of drugs programmes and support on release for women prisoners returning home to Wales?

Support for women prisoners is a real issue, especially following Baroness Corston’s review. We await decisions from the overall Prison Service about what will be brought forward. However, I have already highlighted the fact that although there is more work to do, our investment in drug treatment in prisons is paying dividends. We will continue to drive down the use of drugs in prison and to promote the aftercare of prisoners when they go into the community.