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Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2017

Drones are a serious threat to order and stability in our prisons, given the contraband that they are used to smuggle. Our intelligence work tells us that a lot of this activity is backed up by organised crime gangs. That is why we have invested in our intelligence teams. There is also a specialist unit between the Prison Service and the police service to track down and prosecute such offenders. In the last year alone, there have been 40 arrests and 11 convictions of criminals involved in drone activity, resulting in those convicted serving a total of 40 years in jail.

With offenders being more than twice as likely to be reconvicted within 12 months of release from custody if they are known drug users, what work is being done to tackle the supply—potentially using drones—of drugs into our prisons?

Drones are one way in which drugs are smuggled into our prisons, but we are looking at all possible ways. For example, paper is sometimes impregnated with new psychoactive substances, which makes them very difficult to detect. The way to tackle the supply is to get intelligence not just from each establishment but from different parts of the Prison Service so that we can respond appropriately. We are investing heavily in doing so to combat the drugs problem in our prisons.

The escape in February of a convicted murderer serving a 30-year sentence was linked to the dropping of a mobile phone into a prison in Liverpool using a drone so that he could liaise with villains outside to effect his escape. What steps is the Minister taking to enhance and expand the scheme that he has put in place to disrupt drones over prisons? In passing, has he found the prisoner yet?

The right hon. Gentleman, as a former prisons Minister, is well aware that the job of tracking down and arresting criminals is one for the police service, not the prisons Minister. In response to his other question, we are looking at various types of technology to disrupt drones flying into our prisons to deliver contraband.