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Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill

Volume 690: debated on Friday 12 March 2021

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Assessment of the effectiveness and value for money of this Act

“(1) The Secretary of State must prepare an assessment of the effectiveness and value for money of the provisions of this Act in achieving their objectives.

(2) That assessment must consider—

(a) the extent to which the Act is achieving its objectives;

(b) the number of tests conducted;

(c) the number of positive test results;

(d) the number of novel psychoactive substances found;

(e) the number of prescription-only substances found;

(f) the amount spent on testing;

(g) the net effects on expenditure on the treatment of substance misuse;

(h) the effects of this Act on value for money in substance testing in prisons.

(3) A report on the assessment must be laid before Parliament no later than two years after the day on which this Act comes into force.”—(Sir Christopher Chope.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2—Expiry

“This Act expires at the end of a period of 3 years beginning with the day on which it is passed.”

New clause 1, in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Shipley (Philip Davies), replicates, almost exactly, a new clause that was moved in Committee to try to ensure that there is a proper assessment of the Bill.

The new—temporary; perhaps permanent—prisons Minister had the courtesy to phone me yesterday to discuss the reasons why he believed the new clause was unnecessary. I was able to exchange with him an actual case in my constituency that is causing me concern, which he said he would take away and act upon. I will summarise that case, which shows how important the issue of drugs in prisons is.

The case concerns a constituent whose husband was convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. Within a short time of his arrival in prison, never having taken drugs before, he became addicted to drugs, and he was then trying to get off those drugs. Ultimately, it resulted in him and his family being subject to payments of extortion amounting to no less than £60,000. Despite him and his parents and family reporting the matter, none of the people to whom the £60,000 was paid have been brought to justice. Fortunately, my hon. Friend the new Minister has assured me that he is going to investigate the matter and take care of other issues relating to the welfare of my constituent’s husband.

I tabled the new clause in order to raise that issue. I am not very familiar with procedures in the House, as you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, but as we need to resolve this Report stage so that the Bill can be given its Third Reading, would it be in order for me not to speak any longer about new clauses 1 or 2 but to seek the leave of the House to withdraw them both?

Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

I do not wish to comment on the Bill any further. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) for withdrawing his new clauses and pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) for bring the Bill forward—I am delighted to have supported her.

I express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan), and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) for his constructive attitude in helping us to get the Bill on to the statute book.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) and the hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), and on behalf of the Opposition Front-Bench team I thoroughly welcome the Bill.

I support the Bill—indeed, I was present in the Chamber when we discussed the initial concern about my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) not being able to deal with the Bill herself physically. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) came in and helped to fill the breach, so I thank him for and congratulate him on what has been achieved.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham for her foresight in choosing this topic for the Bill that she wanted to promote. Few things are more important for our constituents who are sadly in prison than to ensure that although they are in prison for punishment—the deprivation of liberty—they are not there to become drug addicts or to be subjected to extortion or other illegal behaviour. If, by facilitating our keeping on top of new substances, the Bill leads to fewer people getting addicted and leaving prison fully addicted, that would be great. I have challenged my hon. Friend the new Minister to be the first prisons Minister to create a truly drugs-free prison in the United Kingdom—a dream that I very much hope will be realised.

I have nothing further to add.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

I just want to say to the House that it is very sad that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) is not here in the Chamber today, but it will mean a very great deal to her to know that the whole House has supported her Bill and that it has now gone through all its stages. I am quite sure that everyone here today will join me in sending the right hon. Lady our very best wishes.