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Illegal Drug Use (Prisons)

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

We are making good progress. As a result of effective prison security measures and working closely with health services to reshape drug treatment in prisons, the proportion of prisoners testing positive for drug misuse is the lowest it has been since 1996.

Many of my constituents remain baffled about why we cannot make prisons drug-free zones; successive Governments have not been able to do so. None the less, I welcome the recent through-the-gate reforms that my hon. Friend has introduced. Will he explain how they will help offenders to come off and stay off drugs?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. On his first point, he will recognise that one of the emerging challenges is the misuse of drugs that are not in and of themselves illegal. In that regard, I commend to him the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), which I think answers that problem very effectively and I hope the House will pass it.

On the through-the-gate reforms, again my hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter) is right that it is important that we undertake to all those providing drug treatment in prisons that what they begin will be properly completed; otherwise, they will not begin what may be long-term drug treatment programmes. That is why through-the-gate matters, and why our rehabilitation reforms will support people not only in custody but in their transition into the community and for some considerable time thereafter.

May I commend to the Minister as his recess reading an excellent book, “Doing Time: Prisons in the 21st Century”, by the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman)? In chapter 2 he talks about 50% of those in prisons having a drug problem. As the Minister knows, the Home Affairs Committee has recommended mandatory testing on arrival and exit. Are we any nearer to that?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I do not agree with him that the right way to deal with drug testing is to have a mandatory point at entry and exit. He also knows that the main reason I disagree with him is that everyone knows where the points are and can see them coming. What I think is much more effective is mandatory random testing, which is what we do now, but, as I explained in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), we must all recognise that the problem that is emerging is less about illegal drugs, dangerous though they are, and more about legal drugs that are being misused in our prisons. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will support the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge.

We might learn more about the book later, but we must move on now. I am saving the hon. Gentleman up; he should not worry.