All 8 contributions to the Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Fri 29th Oct 2021
Fri 21st Jan 2022
Mon 24th Jan 2022
Fri 25th Mar 2022
Wed 6th Apr 2022
Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill
Lords Chamber

Order of Commitment discharged & Order of Commitment discharged
Tue 26th Apr 2022
Thu 28th Apr 2022
Royal Assent
Lords Chamber

Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

2nd reading
Friday 29th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Second Reading
13:52
Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

First, I declare my interest as a former non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and a magistrate member of the Sentencing Council. I also want to thank all those, including Clerks, Whips, officials and the Minister, who helped me to get the Bill to this stage.

I have risen in this House on several occasions to speak about our prison and probation services, and I have paid tribute to the staff working in them, whom I genuinely consider to be the hidden heroes of our public services, but there is an important aspect of our justice system that I have not thus far highlighted: approved premises. Indeed, while many people are familiar with prisons and probation, there is much less awareness of approved premises, yet they provide a critical step in the rehabilitation of offenders. Let us never forget that rehabilitation means there will be less reoffending, and that in turn means fewer victims of crime—something each and every one of us in this House must surely welcome.

Approved premises are essentially hostels which provide temporary accommodation for people who have been released from prison but are considered to present the highest risk to the community. They also house a small number of people on bail as well as high-risk offenders serving community sentences. There are just over 100 APs in England and Wales, with about 2,300 bed spaces between them, and the average stay in them is 12 weeks. The role of approved premises is to ensure that those with the highest risk and most complex needs receive additional, targeted residential supervision and rehabilitative support.

Unfortunately, the number of deaths among approved premises residents has increased over recent years, and many of those deaths are believed to be related to taking drugs. As a result, the independent prisons and probation ombudsman has rightly made repeated recommendations about the urgent need for a comprehensive drugs strategy for the approved premises estate. I am sure that I surprise no one when I say that the use of drugs in approved premises can have a significant impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of residents in both the short and the long term. Of course, drug use also undermines a person’s ability to engage in work or other activities that would help their rehabilitation.

My Bill today is a response to this problem. It would enable approved premises to create a comprehensive framework for drug testing, and it would also bring them in line with the substance testing regime in prisons. This was established by the Prisons (Substance Testing) Act 2021, which was the private Member’s Bill promoted by our greatly missed colleague and my constituency neighbour Dame Cheryl Gillan. I was proud to serve on the Bill Committee for that legislation, and I am delighted to say that it received Royal Assent earlier this year, having been supported by all parties in this House, as I hope my Bill will be.

Currently, residents in approved premises can be tested for drugs only at the request of staff, in accordance with the house rules that are a condition of their residence. Although that provides a basis for drug testing, it does not set out a comprehensive statutory framework for the testing of illicit substances, the scope of substances for which testing can be conducted or the types of sample that may be taken. I submit that that needs to change.

One reason for the need for more formalised and widespread testing is that patterns of drug misuse in both custody and the community are changing. In particular, psychoactive substances have become much more prevalent within the illicit economy in approved premises. These are particularly unpleasant, and one of the most worrying aspects of them is their unpredictable impact on different individuals. Some people become catatonic after taking them. Others suffer convulsions, vomiting or temporary loss of vision. Still others become anxious, aggressive or even engage in extreme behaviours that almost defy the imagination. They can easily pose a serious danger to others and indeed to themselves.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for speaking on this. I well remember the debate we had in Committee, when I picked up that Bill from Dame Cheryl, on prisons testing and substance misuse. I also remember speaking to those from the Prison Officers Association during the passage of that Bill, and they said to me that some of the interactions they were having with prisoners were off the scale, even compared with the issues they had with controlled substances, with prisoners attempting to commit suicide, in absolute rages and totally uncontrollable. Are those the sort of examples he is trying to pin down with this Bill so that things like that in treatment centres in the community can be addressed?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those are exactly the types of behaviour that cause real concern. I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for picking up the mantle on that prisons Bill from Dame Cheryl Gillan. He talked about the Prison Officers Association, and it is worth mentioning that, according to a recent staff survey in approved premises, the main substance of choice in those premises is now psychoactive substances, so anything we can do to stamp out their use is bound to be of benefit.

A further challenge comes from prescription and pharmacy medicines, which can also be abused by some residents when medication is brought into the premises from outside. That may have been legally obtained by somebody else or it may have been imported, but it is then taken by residents in an illicit way to get high, and that can at times even prove lethal. Yet the current drugs testing regime in approved premises can test only for four groups of drugs—opioids, cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines. Therefore, first, my Bill will extend the range of substances that can be tested to cover all forms of psychoactive substance as well as prescription and pharmacy medicines, in addition of course to the existing drugs. Alongside that, the Bill also introduces urine testing rather than the currently used oral fluid testing. There are relatively few drugs that can in fact be detected reliably in oral fluid. That means that the current testing regime is unable to identify much of the potential drug use among residents. As a result, it is not possible to tackle the problem.

Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am interested in exploring my hon. Friend’s point about the scope of the testing. As Members across the House will know, legislating to proscribe drugs is something of a retrospective game because almost every week more drugs appear on the market and in head shops. We seem to be chasing our tail when it comes to these things, and they can be harmful or they can be innocent. Where would he place the limit on the scope of testing?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That has been addressed recently through legislation to ensure that the appropriate Department can incorporate different types of psychoactive substances so that there does not need to be primary legislation on each and every occasion a new substance is named. It is very easy to tinker with one or two of the chemical elements, thereby taking them out of the scope of what is illegal and what is legal. Thankfully, that has been addressed, so it would apply to this proposed legislation as well, making sure that we were not always chasing our tails. I thank my hon. Friend for making that very important point.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for promoting this Bill. It is clear that he speaks with great authority on the matter. From reading the notes and listening to him speak, it seems to me that the danger is not just to the people taking the drug. In the case of prescription medicine, residents who are trying to go straight are being bullied by residents who are trying to get the drugs off them. Could he set out how the testing regime he envisages would protect people who are desperately trying to be rehabilitated, go straight and become productive members of society again?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. That can indeed be a risk, although having had conversations this week with the staff and management of approved premises, I have been reassured to learn that, for the most part, the staff look after any prescription medicines and issue them to residents at the appropriate time. Therefore, there is a little less concern than one might have thought about residents obtaining those drugs from others through distinctly unhelpful ways such as bullying. In fact, the current concerns seem to be rather more as I have described them—namely, people from outside obtaining substances legally and then sharing them illicitly, or, indeed, substances being obtained from overseas via the internet. My hon. Friend raises an important point and I know that the management of approved premises in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service are keen to tackle it. They believe that they have already taken serious steps through their regime of handing out medication.

Let me turn to the reasons why it is preferable to test via urine. It is very clear that this will enable a wider range of substances to come under a testing regime. It will also, importantly, extend the time period in which testing can identify drug use. That is because some drugs are detectable for only 12 to 24 hours when using oral fluid, whereas when using urine, drugs such as heroin are detectable for up to five days.

The second aspect of my Bill aims to ensure that the Government understand the prevalence and nature of substance abuse in approved premises. It would allow HMPPS to use resident samples to test for the prevalence of various substances on an anonymised basis.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this important topic to the Chamber. Why does not the Bill suggest follicle samples as another means to test for substances?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point, although I only half-thank her because I have to say that it is not a measure that I have thus far considered. I will take her up on it and find out more. If the Bill passes its Second Reading, I hope that she will serve on the Committee, so perhaps we could explore her suggestion at that stage. In the meantime I will endeavour to find out more, but I regret that that will probably not happen before I finish speaking today.

Prevalence testing on an anonymised basis would be key to helping HMPPS understand the ever changing drug landscape, and it would allow staff to take appropriate action to tackle the threat of drugs in those premises.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What is your feeling about what the current prevalence is? You mentioned four different drug groups and the extent of the testing required. When the testing happens, what do you expect the most prevalent drugs will be?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just a reminder not to use the word “you”, please.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The problem is that we do not know, and that is the reason to introduce prevalence testing. We know about individual cases where people have died, unfortunately, but we do not know the number of people who have taken drugs but it has not been detected. That is the whole purpose of introducing the Bill. If it passes and the measures are implemented, we will, in 12, 24 or 36 months, have a much clearer idea of the prevalence, but I would not want to hazard a guess on something that we do not yet know. My hon. Friend almost underlines the rationale for my Bill.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall (Gedling) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is an interesting debate on a subject in which I was not particularly well versed. These premises are in a community. If drugs are being taken, is there a knock-on effect on antisocial behaviour in the community, such as robbery or theft to fund drug taking? If so, would increased testing help to improve the standing and status of approved premises and make them more acceptable?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend raises a very plausible scenario, but I am not aware of any specific evidence to suggest that. There is quite a strict regime in approved premises around the behaviour of residents. For example, they are required to abide by a curfew and their behaviour is very carefully scrutinised. If their behaviour is in breach of the rules, there are possible sanctions that could ultimately lead to a recall to prison. However, he highlighted a danger area. At present, most of the concern is about the wellbeing of individuals in the premises and, once they leave the premises and move into the community more widely, the danger of their continuing a drug habit that would likely lead them to engage in illegal behaviour. But ideally, the further testing that the Bill would introduce would reduce the chance of people succumbing to that temptation.

Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is clear that the Bill aims to reduce the number of drug-related deaths on approved premises and help with the rehabilitation of offenders, but in widening the scope of what my hon. Friend wants to test for, what sanctions would be in place for those who possess, supply and use the increased range of substances?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will say a bit more about sanctions later, but first, and most importantly, the aim in approved premises is to help people on their journey to rehabilitation. If somebody fails a drugs test, the first step will be for the staff to engage in conversation with them, try to work out what the causes are and direct them towards the appropriate substance misuse organisation. Every single approved premises in the country—there are approximately 100—has a link with a substance misuse premises that can do that. However, if that behaviour were to continue, as I mentioned, more punitive sanctions are possible and could be implemented. If people were caught in possession of drugs of whatever type—let alone if there was a fear of supply—they would, of course, be subject to normal police intervention. If necessary, that would lead to a prosecution, but that would be beyond the scope of my Bill and in the normal course of the law, as it stands.

Dehenna Davison Portrait Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s fantastic campaigning on all matters of criminal justice since he got into the House. He is a true champion of this cause and I am grateful to him for bringing in the Bill. I am reassured to hear that early intervention is in place for those who fail drugs tests, but does he agree that we are sometimes too quick to recriminalise people who are really trying to rebuild their lives and that a more restorative approach is the right way forward?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend’s point is absolutely spot on. That is why the first step will be to try to encourage people to help themselves. The answer to stopping people reoffending is not always to come down incredibly harshly the first time that people make a mistake. I remember that when I was involved with the Youth Justice Board I asked some young people, “What would you really like me to take away from my conversation with you, given that you have committed an offence?” They said, “That one mistake does not define your entire life.”

It is important to get the balance right: not letting people off if they commit offences time after time, but adopting a progressive approach. That is what the Bill seeks to do, and it is, I think, what the Government’s approach to criminal justice is all about. We need to be very tough at the hard end, but we also need to give people the opportunity to live a crime-free life if they can be helped to do that through positive interventions, rather than criminalising them.

Jane Hunt Portrait Jane Hunt (Loughborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. People must serve their sentences, but then be given the opportunity to change, because that is how we really reduce reoffending,

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Absolutely

Let me now say a little more about the consequences if someone tests positive, to make sure that I have it on the record. The first step is a discussion with the resident, which should lead to a plan to help them tackle the problem and stop using drugs with the support of the substance misuse services to which I referred earlier. The aim, as I have said repeatedly, is rehabilitation. Of course, if the drug use continued or resulted in wider problems—as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall)—that could lead to breach proceedings or, in extremis, a recall to prison.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that my hon. Friend shares my concern that, during the pandemic, prisons were largely shut down, with training, education and skills, as well as drug support and other medical interventions, no longer available to prisoners. Is it not vital for the Government to take urgent steps to support prisoners in the way that my hon. Friend has described, so that when they come out, they can move forward in their lives?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with my hon. Friend. Throughout the pandemic, Ministers have frequently come to the Justice Committee to talk to us and account for what is going on in prisons.

At the beginning of the pandemic, given the presence of so many people in such close and confined circumstances, it was feared that prisons could easily become super-spreader locations, and it is a huge tribute to the staff in our prisons, at all levels, that that did not happen. In fact, the number of people who succumbed to covid-19 on the custodial estate was very small indeed. Achieving that required restrictions of their normal activities, on the rehabilitation programmes and so on, and of course we want to overcome that as quickly as possible, but I think that the key aim has been to save lives, and I pay tribute to HMPPS for achieving that.

I have had the opportunity to talk to staff involved in running approved premises, and they believe that their colleagues—and, importantly, residents—would welcome these proposals. My final word—

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It will not be my final word, because I am taking another intervention!

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was a special adviser in the House of Lords during the passage of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. That Act specifically excluded caffeine, which is by far the most broadly used psychoactive substance available. I note that the Bill does not currently refer to the exclusions in the Act, but merely mentions psychoactive substances. Will my hon. Friend assure me that at a later stage—perhaps in Committee, if his Bill makes it that far—caffeine will be excluded, so that I shall be able to support the Bill’s Second Reading?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope that my hon. Friend will support the Bill today, and that sounded like a very good effort at volunteering to be a member of the Bill Committee. I am now drawing to a conclusion, and I beg the indulgence of my hon. Friends in not making further interventions for the moment.

The Bill may seem fairly insignificant or even trivial to some, but drug use is pervasive. It is so often the major driver in the commission of crimes. In the 12 years that I spent as a magistrate, I lost count of the number of defendants who appeared in front of me either because they were stealing to feed their habit, or because they had committed the offence when they were high. Anything we can do to help people steer clear of drugs, including psychoactive substances and illicit medication, has the potential to cut crime.

The House has the opportunity today to support provisions that would enable us to better identify and respond to new and emerging patterns of drug use in approved premises, which would help to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and, ultimately, support reductions in reoffending. I hope that the benefits I have laid out in some detail are clear and that the Bill will gain support from Members on both sides.

00:00
Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) on bringing the Bill forward. I know that he has tremendous experience in the area, and he is a great asset to this place in that respect, but I was a bit concerned that he would talk out his own Bill.

The hon. Gentleman outlined clearly the context for the Bill. As we are content to support Second Reading, I will be brief. As we have heard, residents who are supervised in approved premises are not typical offenders. Often, they are high-risk individuals with previous additional problems and troubled pasts. For that reason, it is crucial that those who are housed in that type of premises can access a safe and secure environment that will support their rehabilitation and promote their wellbeing. Critical to that is ensuring that residents are protected from the supply of illicit drugs, which may have led many of them to offend in the first place.

Substance abuse ruins the lives not only of the people who become dependent on drugs, but of their friends, families and loved ones, as is very clearly the case when I talk to affected families in my constituency. Moreover, it plays a huge factor in offending and reoffending. Labour supports the principle of the Bill, which would give offender managers the powers they need to clamp down on illicit drugs in approved premises and, by doing so, to protect those in their care and prevent their reoffending.

Under the Offender Management Act 2007, residents of approved premises are required to submit to drugs tests if requested by members of staff, but we accept that the current testing framework is far from perfect. In particular, we share the concerns that, in the 14 years since the Act was enacted, patterns of drug misuse in custody, and in the community for that matter, have changed considerably. That is particularly evident in the huge number of new psychoactive substances available that are constantly evolving and becoming harder to detect and combat.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the Bill would allow offender managers to use urine testing rather than oral fluid testing to allow them to detect a far wider range of drugs over a longer period than currently, and then tackle their misuse. As Members will be aware, in recent years, psychoactive substances have become far more prevalent across approved premises and prisons. Similarly, there has been an alarming rise in the number of offenders abusing prescription drugs that have been prescribed for genuine medical purposes.

This is not just about further criminalising offenders. Giving offender managers the tools to better understand the types of drugs that are being abused in approved premises will allow them to better support those in their care. Not only will that improve the rehabilitation of individual residents, but it will decrease the risk to members of the wider public.

The misuse of drugs, prescription drugs and psychoactive substances is a growing problem within our prisons and youth offending institutions. It is also a problem in our approved premises, as we have heard. If we are to have any hope of breaking the cycle between offending and reoffending, we need to take action. We look forward to discussing the Bill in Committee.

14:18
Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a privilege to speak in support of this important Bill. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for bringing forward this legislation, which fundamentally supports rehabilitation services across the country. I am proud to support the Bill to update ageing legislation that has left assisted premises staff without the appropriate and necessary legislative support that they need to do their jobs.

Fundamentally, our prison system must focus on the rehabilitation of offenders, as we prepare them for life after they are released. We know, however, that following their release, a minority of individuals deemed to be at high risk of harm or reoffending need the supervision and support that only specialised centres can provide. Each and every assisted premises across the UK is there to protect and support bailees as they transition from their custodial release back into society. Approved premises are rightly in place to ensure that these offenders with the highest risk and most complex needs receive the additional residential supervision and rehabilitative support that they often need following release from custody.

While there are no assisted premises within the boundaries of my constituency, the Tees Valley is served by two premises in Middlesbrough. Nelson House and The Crescent provide the specialised support that a number of individuals locally need to prevent further harm from being caused. They also provide a safe, suitable temporary home, ensuring that these vulnerable offenders do not end up on the street.

These centres provide a range of engaging activities, events and skills classes for their residents to participate in. Over the past year, this has included marking and celebrating awareness days, such as LGBT awareness, mental health awareness and Macmillan coffee mornings, as well as important cultural and religious days of significance. It has also included the provision of skills sessions chiefly focused on supporting residents once they move on from those premises. I read with interest that one such course was Skills 2: Employment Day, where residents were taught real world practical skills to make them more employable and how to make the most of opportunities presented to them.

While staff at the centres across the country continue to support their residents and prepare them for reintegration, we know that the ageing Offender Management Act 2007 is failing to keep pace with changes in the drugs problem and improving drug testing technology. Sadly, that has led to concerns being raised regarding the fact that the number of deaths among approved premises residents has increased in recent years. I understand that many of these deaths are believed to be drug related.

Indeed, we know that psychoactive drugs have become more prevalent in approved premises, hampering the efforts of staff to protect and rehabilitate individuals, while bullying sees the hoarding and abuse of prescription medication. I am glad that this short, yet impactful Bill grants staff the legislative powers that they need to prevent the wider prevalence of drug misuse within their premises and to tackle ever-changing and evolving drug patterns.

At the heart of the Bill, staff at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service are empowered with the power they need to monitor and control the misuse of controlled psychoactive and prescriptive drugs. Under clause 1, approved premises managers can authorise assisted premises staff to ask for and require a urine sample from any resident rather than an oral fluid test. It was interesting to hear the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) with regard to the challenge on hair follicle testing. It is, however, important to highlight that the Bill rightly imposes restrictions on how this sample may be acquired and places a duty on the Secretary of State to publish guidance on the exercise of drug testing in these sites. The sample can then be used to identify a controlled drug, a prescription-only medicine or a psychoactive substance within the resident’s body.

I am glad that the Bill builds on the recommendation of the prisons and probation ombudsman, who, in 2017, called for more effective drug testing practices and better staff guidance to identify and address the risks associated with substance misuse. The Bill places approved premises on a much firmer legislative footing and I am pleased to support it today.

14:23
Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is great to rise to speak on this very important Bill, which has been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler).

I just want to make a few brief points in the limited time that I have. I appreciate that my hon. Friend cannot answer the question on the prevalence of different types of drugs, but, clearly, drug use in prisons and approved premises is rife. It is responsible for a lot of misery, delaying people and causing them problems in their rehabilitation process. The more that we can do on drug testing and offering drug testing, the better, particularly in terms of being able to offer proper treatment, packages and pathways for people going through the criminal justice system.

It is worth reflecting on the harms that drug use causes to people. We talk a lot about the harms to society, but there are also harms to people themselves. The most dangerous time to be a heroin user when a person is going through the judicial system is when they leave prison. When they leave prison, they get access to heroin again, take far more than they are used to and have heroin overdoses. It is important we make sure that people are detected and we get them on proper treatment plans so they can be rehabilitated back into society.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury again for tabling the Bill, which will hopefully make a huge difference in protecting our society and, importantly, helping people on the path to rehabilitation.

14:25
Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler), who gave a comprehensive speech that is difficult to top. He was obviously rehearsing for being a Minister, given the number of interventions he took. I hope he will excuse me if I do not take any.

This Bill is very important, and we look forward to it completing its passage. As my hon. Friend said, it continues from the Prisons (Substance Testing) Act 2021, which was another private Member’s Bill that received Royal Assent with support from both sides of the House. I am grateful for the support of the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), too.

As a number of Members have said, this Bill makes sure we can understand and react quickly to the changing patterns of drug misuse in approved premises, as drug misuse often hampers individuals’ chances of rehabilitation. As Members may be aware, around 80% of crime that receives a caution or conviction is committed by a repeat offender, and around 62% of prisoners have either an alcohol or drugs need, or both.

Combating drug misuse is a priority for the Government. In January this year we announced £148 million to institute a system-wide approach to the problem of illegal drugs, with £80 million of new money being invested in treatment and recovery services beyond the prison gate.

One of the projects I am proud to have founded is Project ADDER, a joint Home Office, Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England initiative that combines targeted and tougher policing with enhanced treatment and recovery services. Through Project ADDER, work is under way to improve outcomes for offenders with substance misuse needs in prison and within the ADDER geographies.

It is also important that work to tackle substance misuse continues outside prison. We know the detrimental impact that drugs can have on an individual, both physically and mentally. Having a comprehensive framework of substance testing in place will be vital in ensuring that approved premises are safe and drug free, and that the risk of serious harm is reduced for the individual, other residents and, most importantly, the wider public. This Bill does two things. It enables us to implement a rigorous drug-testing framework, enabling mandatory drug testing for psychoactive substances and prescription and pharmacy medicines. Supported by the change to urine testing, we can reliably test for a wider number of substances for longer. Urine testing gives us a date when drugs were taken, whereas I am afraid that follicle testing does not. A positive follicle test could mean that drugs were taken months before. The Bill will also put prevalence testing on a firmer statutory footing that allows us to better identify emerging trends and ensure we are able to react quickly.

The combined measures set out in the Bill are intended to help us to tackle the use of drugs in approved premises and ensure that staff can respond effectively and put the necessary care planning in place. This will in turn support our commitment to rehabilitate offenders and, as a number of Members said, get them on to the straight and narrow and give them a second chance, not least because that is one of the key planks of reducing crime overall.

Everyone who has taken part in this debate has my gratitude, not least for their brevity and their commitment to this issue.

14:28
Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the leave of the House, I thank Members on both sides of the House for their support for my Bill. I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Darlington (Peter Gibson) and for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer) for their speeches, and to many other colleagues for their thoughtful interventions.

I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) for his words of support, and I take all his comments on board. I look forward to working together if this Bill progresses.

I also repeat my appreciation to those who have assisted me on the Bill’s progress so far. I feel sure that if the Bill eventually reaches the statute book, it will bring real benefits to society. Everybody present here today will have contributed to that. All our communities are touched by crime, and we all know that drugs play a major part. We will all have shared in clamping down on that crime and reducing the number of victims.

I am very grateful to the Minister for his expert knowledge of follicle testing, which I hope answered the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe).

I have no more to say other than, “Thank you very much indeed.” I look forward to continuing to work with all my colleagues to get this Bill on to the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill (Morning sitting)

Committee stage
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: David Mundell
† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)
Crawley, Angela (Lanark and Hamilton East) (SNP)
Daby, Janet (Lewisham East) (Lab)
† Davison, Dehenna (Bishop Auckland) (Con)
Dhesi, Mr Tanmanjeet Singh (Slough) (Lab)
† Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
† Gibson, Peter (Darlington) (Con)
Holden, Mr Richard (North West Durham) (Con)
† Hunt, Jane (Loughborough) (Con)
† Malthouse, Kit (Minister for Crime and Policing)
† Marson, Julie (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
† Mullan, Dr Kieran (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
Osborne, Kate (Jarrow) (Lab)
† Randall, Tom (Gedling) (Con)
† Reeves, Ellie (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP)
† Spencer, Dr Ben (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
Adam Mellows-Facer, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Wednesday 15 December 2021
[David Mundell in the Chair]
Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill
09:25
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing as far as possible, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. Please give one another and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room. I remind everyone that they are asked by the House to have a lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the estate, which can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home.

Please switch electronic devices to silent. Hansard colleagues would be grateful if Members emailed their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. My selection and grouping for today’s sitting is available online and in the room. No amendments were tabled. We will have a single debate covering both clauses of the Bill.

Clause 1

Substance testing of residents in approved premises

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 2 stand part.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I must declare that, prior to my election, I was a non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and a magistrate member of the Sentencing Council.

As I highlighted on Second Reading, patterns of drug misuse in both custody and the community are changing. In recent years, psychoactive substances have become much more prevalent in the illicit economy in approved premises. Prescription medicines are also abused by some residents, which sometimes can prove lethal. The use of drugs in approved premises can have a significant impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals. Taking substances undermines an offender’s ability to engage in rehabilitation.

The measures set out in clause 1 would allow Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to create a comprehensive drug-testing framework in approved premises. That would bring us in line with the testing regime currently used across the prison estate. It would allow the drug-testing framework to respond effectively and flexibly to changing patterns of drug misuse and improve the identification of residents misusing substances, ensuring that appropriate care planning and referrals to treatment are in place. It is important to emphasise that the first step is to try to ensure guidance and assistance for those found to have illicit substances in their bodies as a result of testing.

Clause 1 inserts proposed new section 13A into the Offender Management Act 2007. It extends the range of substances that can be tested for and makes provision for HMPPS to test all residents in approved premises for controlled drugs, psychoactive substances and prescription-only medicines. It achieves that by using the definitions of those substances and medicines already set out in legislation, including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

Subsection (2) of proposed new section 13A contains an express power that, in accordance with an authorisation given by the approved premises manager, a member of approved premises staff may require a resident to provide a sample of urine to ascertain whether the resident has in their body a controlled drug, a prescription-only medicine or psychoactive substance. The move to urine testing, rather than the currently used oral fluid testing, will allow HMPPS to test for a wide range of different substances for longer. Depending upon the drug, in oral fluid the drug would be detectable for perhaps only 12 to 24 hours. In urine testing, some drugs such as heroin will be detectable for up to five days. In addition to, or instead of urine, subsection (3) provides for a sample of any other description to be required, provided that it is not an intimate sample as defined in section 65 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Subsections (5) and (6) set out a requirement for staff to

“have regard to any guidance…issued by the Secretary of State”

regarding the exercise of the drug-testing power. Guidance is expected to be along similar lines to the existing guidance on drug testing in approved premises, which contains detailed procedures and instructions to ensure the integrity of the testing and ensure that accurate records are kept.

Proposed new section 13A also makes provision for anonymised prevalence testing for controlled drugs, medicinal products and psychoactive substances. With an express power to conduct prevalence testing, HMPPS will be better able to understand the ever-changing drug landscape and therefore take appropriate action to tackle the threat of drugs in approved premises efficiently and in good time.

The new section would also allow the Secretary of State to make any necessary changes in the event of any future change to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 or

“other subordinate legislation…which relates to human medicines”,

so that if a substance definition referred to in the new section were revoked in future, we could amend the Offender Management Act 2007 accordingly to include that definition or refer to alternative legislation. That will assure that we can avoid any impact on the approved premises drug-testing framework.

Clause 2 confirms the Bill’s short title, makes provision for the Bill to come into force by regulations and provides that it will extend to England and Wales only, as offender management is devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I thank the hon. Member for Aylesbury for introducing this important Bill.

It is concerning that drug deaths in approved premises have increased in recent years, while there has been a rise in psychoactive substances such as Spice and skunk. Meanwhile, there is currently no comprehensive framework for substance testing in approved premises; the Bill would remedy that, so the Opposition welcome it.

Approved premises play an incredibly important role in the rehabilitation of high-risk individuals. It is crucial that they be safe, drug-free and a conducive environment for residents’ rehabilitation. Sadly, I am getting increasingly concerned about the abuse of psychoactive substances and prescription drugs, detection of both of which can be evaded under the current testing regime. It is right for managers of approved premises to have the tools to identify drug misuse, enabling them to tackle the problem and ensure that residents can receive the support that they require to protect them and their fellow residents and, more importantly, keep members of the public safe.

It is important to focus on rehabilitation. People living in approved premises are not typical offenders; they often have complex problems. The main goal of the framework should be to identify those who have taken drugs and give them appropriate assistance to prevent further use. I welcome the hon. Member’s comments today and on Second Reading that the Bill is about providing assistance and rehabilitation first and about prosecution second. More generally, I urge the Government to secure treatment pathways that offenders found to be using illegal substances can be placed on as soon as possible instead of having to wait weeks for help.

I am glad that the Bill is a step in the right direction. I hope that drug use in approved premises will be tackled efficiently for the benefit of residents undergoing rehabilitation and for the safety of the wider public.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury for expertly guiding the Bill through Second Reading and into Committee. I know from recent experience that that can be a challenging task; I congratulate him on navigating the process to this stage.

Sadly, we know that psychoactive drugs are becoming more prevalent in approved premises across the United Kingdom and are undermining the important work there. I welcome clause 1, which, building on the recommendation of the prisons and probation ombudsman, would allow managers to authorise approved premises staff to ask for and require a urine sample, rather than an oral fluid test, from any resident. The sample could then be used to identify a controlled drug, a prescription-only medicine or a psychoactive substance in the resident’s body.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Member on his own experience with Bills, which he has recently acquired, I think. Does he agree that enabling testing for a wider range of substances ought to prevent those living in approved premises who are tempted to take these substances from doing so, because they know that they can be detected for longer? It might help those living in approved premises to not reoffend.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention, and I thank her for her support in Committee for my private Member’s Bill. I trust that her point will be picked up on by the Member in charge or the Minister. I am glad to have an opportunity to further support the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, and I look forward to Third Reading in the new year.

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure, as always, to appear under your wise and guiding hand, Mr Mundell. I start by extending my wholehearted support for my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury. I thank him for introducing this important Bill.

Having the privilege of being Minister for Crime and Policing, I am aware of how necessary these provisions are. Drugs not only have an impact on an individual’s physical and mental state, but they also play an important role when it comes to crime, not just because of the direct harm they do, but because of the wide range of criminality they can drive. In the year to March 2020, 48% of homicides were drug-related. The Government are committed to cutting crime and dismantling the entire business model of drugs, from supply to demand.

We set this out in the beating crime plan, which we published in the summer, and our commitment to tackling drug use is set out clearly in our cross-Government drugs strategy and the prisons strategy White Paper, both published last week. The drugs strategy represents an ambitious, 10-year generational commitment to work across Government to address illegal drug use, including increased and enhanced testing in prisons and, I hope, approved premises. The strategy is the formal, substantive response to the exceptional and comprehensive independent review of drugs led by Dame Carol Black, and it accepts all her main recommendations.

Our strategy sets out three core priorities: cutting off drug supply, creating a world-class treatment and recovery system, and achieving a generational shift in the demand for drugs. Our vision goes beyond treatment. People who suffer from addiction have multiple and complex needs for which they need support. We are leading the world in delivering a joined-up package across treatment, accommodation and employment. Drug treatment will be joined up with our investment in NHS mental health services, so that people’s wider needs can be addressed together.

As set out in the prisons White Paper, our goal is for prisons to have a culture of zero tolerance to drugs and an approach that ensures meaningful and lasting recovery for all prisoners. We will ensure that every offender has access to the treatment they need and a plan to help them to turn their backs on crime. Prisoners will be supported to use their time in prison to become free of drugs. On release, accommodation and employment support will help them to stay away from drugs and crime.

It is important, however, that work to tackle substance misuse continues outside prison. Our drugs strategy is underpinned by record investment of nearly £900 million of additional funding over the next three-year spending review period, taking the total investment on combating drugs over the next three years to £3 billion. From this we will invest more than £2.8 billion over the next three years to create a world-class treatment and recovery system. This includes £780 million of additional investment —the largest ever single increase in treatment and recovery funding.

The Bill will allow us to further deliver on the commitments set out in the beating crime plan, the prisons White Paper and our drugs strategy to tackle drugs misuse, cut crime and save lives. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury set out, the Bill will implement a rigorous drug-testing framework, enabling mandatory drug testing for psychoactive substances, together with prescription and pharmacy medicines. Supported by the change in urine testing, this means that we can reliably test for a wide number of different substances for longer.

The Bill will also put prevalence testing on a firmer statutory footing, which allows us to better identify emerging trends and ensure we are able to react quickly to changes in drug use. The combined measures in the Bill will ensure consistency of testing and treatment from prison to the community and will be vital in ensuring that approved premises, which we are of course expanding, are safe and drug-free, and that the risk of serious harm is reduced for the individual, other residents and the wider public.

The Bill will help us tackle drug use in approved premises, ensure that staff in them are able to respond effectively and provide residents with the necessary treatment and support. That will support this Government’s commitment to rehabilitate offenders, reduce reoffending and beat crime. The Government are pleased to support the Bill, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury on bringing it forward. I commend the Bill to the Committee.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all Members present here today—both Front-Bench and Back-Bench colleagues. I realise that there are many demands on everybody’s time, particularly this close to Christmas. It is important to underline that those here today have shown an interest in an important, but often unrecognised, part of our criminal justice system. Approved premises can make a significant contribution to an offender's rehabilitation at an absolutely crucial moment in their transition from prison back to the community. Helping those tempted or enticed into using drugs is a vital element of achieving success, thereby reducing reoffending and so cutting the number of victims of crime.

The Opposition spokeswoman, the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge, talked about the benefit to residents in approved premises and the wider public. It is important that we do not lose sight of that. I will put on the record more detail on the consequences if someone fails a drug test, to reassure her further about the approach that will be taken in approved premises. The first step is that there would be a discussion between that resident and the member of staff in the approved premises. That might then lead to an improvement plan being initiated; that would encompass referrals to the appropriate drug misuse services. The emphasis is very much on help and guidance, because we know that committing offences while under the influence of drugs is a huge problem. That is, therefore, a key element in trying to overcome that problem. It is important to say that this would not be a purely punitive exercise. However, if other behaviours were associated with that drug use, that could lead to other actions being taken. There is an emphasis on rehabilitation and assistance, but it does not lose sight of the need for punitive action, if required.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington for highlighting the impact that this legislation can have. In response to the intervention from the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood, a colleague on the Justice Committee, I am glad that she has focused on deterrence and I agree with her point entirely. Growing awareness of the fact that this testing exists in approved premises is, one hopes, likely to discourage residents of those approved premises from being tempted into drug misuse—whether that is of psychoactive substances, illicitly obtained prescription medicines or more conventional illegal drugs. Finally, I am very grateful to the Minister for highlighting the part that this legislation could play in an overall, long-term drugs strategy, as was proposed last week.

I offer my sincere gratitude to the staff in the Ministry of Justice—one of whom is at the back of the Committee Room—who have been a huge support in the preparation of this Bill and its progress thus far. I also thank members of the House staff; I am not sure whether I am allowed to name them individually, but they know who they are. I pay tribute to those in Ministry of Justice, whether working on the frontline or in the Bill team itself, for their commitment to helping offenders turn around their lives through this legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

At this stage I could afford Mr Butler a further opportunity to say something, but I think he set out his thanks to those who have been involved in getting the Bill to this stage in his previous remarks.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

09:44
Committee rose.

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

3rd reading
Friday 21st January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.
Third Reading
00:05
Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the third time.

First, I declare my interest as a former non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and a magistrate member of the Sentencing Council. Approved premises are an unsung part of a largely unsung service, but just as part of the successful functioning of our society and democracy is a criminal justice system that is fair and fit for purpose, approved premises are a critical element of the continuum between custody and community for a significant number of those who have broken the law.

There are approximately 100 approved premises across England and Wales, with some 2,300 bed spaces between them. Primarily, they provide temporary accommodation for offenders who have been released from prison but are still deemed to pose a high risk, or those who have the most complex needs and so need to receive additional, targeted residential supervision and rehabilitative support.

I make no apology for repeating the point I have made at previous stages of the passage of this Bill: it is rehabilitation that is key. Whatever the views of individual Members or different parties across the House about the causes of crime or harshness of sentencing, we all want to see fewer victims of crime, yet despite the best efforts of skilled, dedicated, committed and caring prison officers and probation staff, to whom I pay tribute, reoffending rates remain stubbornly high. In fact, as hon. and right hon. Members may be aware, around 80% of crime that receives a caution or conviction is committed by a repeat offender.

We know that drugs play a massive role in offending, whether that is committing crimes while the offender is under the influence of drugs or committing crimes to feed the habit. Indeed, Dame Carol Black’s review of drugs estimated that the total cost of harms related to illicit drug use in England was more than £19 billion in 2017-18. Drug-related crime was the main driver of the total costs, with recorded offences committed in England by drug users amounting to £9.3 billion in that period. Action to reduce drug use is an important part of helping people who are newly released from prison and at acute risk of succumbing to the temptation of a return to substance misuse.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his private Member’s Bill. In the Mayor of London’s suggested new policy, he is looking to allow young people who are caught with drugs in Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham not to face any offence or be brought to justice and to be let off the hook. Does my hon. Friend agree that really small amounts of drugs can lead to greater issues for young people in the long term and may even lead them to go into crime? Surely it is about teaching young people from the very start that drugs are not the answer to anything.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend raises an important point. She is absolutely right that drugs are never the answer, and we need to make sure we tackle the blight that they bring. Thames Valley police, which covers the area of Aylesbury, has a very interesting programme of diversion. Diversion for young people does not mean letting people off the hook, but it does sometimes mean steering them towards help, rather than necessarily taking them to court as a first step. That can sometimes be a very valuable part of the process of helping young people make the right decisions ultimately, and that feeds into the approach that staff in approved premises will take towards people who are tested, if this Bill becomes law. I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point, and I will build on it a little when we get to the specifics of how it applies to this Bill.

Based on the context I have set out, this legislation is very much needed. Sadly, in recent years the number of deaths among residents in approved premises has increased, and many of those deaths are believed to be related to drugs. As I have highlighted previously, it is an unfortunate fact that patterns of drug misuse both in custody and in the community are changing for the worse. In recent years, psychoactive substances have become much more prevalent in the illicit economy in approved premises—indeed, a recent questionnaire of staff in approved premises suggested that they are now the primary substance of choice.

Psychoactive substances can be especially dangerous, not least because of the unpredictability of their effect. In some cases they appear to have almost no effect and perhaps leave the user just dozing slightly, but it can be much worse and they can be left in a virtually catatonic state. In other cases the use of psychoactive substances can result in convulsions, vomiting, the temporary loss of vision or speech, reduced levels of consciousness and anxiety.

It is more concerning still that the use of psychoactive substances can provoke extreme, volatile or unpredictable behaviour that can often be violent. That poses a serious risk not only to the person who has taken the substance but to people nearby. Members may have seen a recent television documentary that showed prisoners in jail who were thought to have taken psychoactive substances and who behaved as though they were animals: they were literally on the floor, howling and fighting extremely aggressively. It was profoundly disturbing to watch such scenes.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting the Bill to this stage—and further, we hope, later today. He is right to raise the problem with psychoactive substances and the risk of people turning violent or aggressive. Is there not a risk of a domino effect? If people are on the mend and clean in approved premises but then go into an unstable environment, that is more likely to put them back on the path that we are trying to get them off.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend gets to the nub of the challenge we face, and I glad he has highlighted it. I express my appreciation for his work with a similar Bill on substance testing in prisons that he stewarded through the previous Session, inspired by our former colleague, the much-missed former Member for Chesham and Amersham, Dame Cheryl Gillan, about whom I shall say a little more later. He picked up the mantle and speaks with great expertise in this policy area.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting his Bill to this stage. Will the results of the anonymous testing be published?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe that will happen. I defer to the Minister for the expert technical advice, but my understanding is that generally the data that arises will be published. The prime purpose of the collection of the anonymised data is to enable HMPPS staff to ascertain patterns of drug use, to look in particular at what types of drugs or substances are used more widely and then to come up with programmes to tackle the problems. I apologise that I cannot give my right hon. Friend a precise answer; I commit to writing to him with the appropriate response if the Minister is unable to answer him in her speech. I hope he will accept that commitment for the moment.

It is worth highlighting that even prescription medicines are abused by some residents in approved premises. Occasionally, that can prove lethal. A recent internal survey of approved premises staff found that more than 50% of them felt that prescription medication was a problem. This merits a few words of explanation, because I am talking not about medicines prescribed to the resident who has been tested but about prescription medicines that have been obtained by the person who takes them without a prescription—for example, from foreign companies via the internet—or that have been given to the resident by somebody else to whom they were prescribed. Prescription medicines are of course appropriate for those to whom they have been prescribed, but they can pose a real danger if they are taken without medical advice or in combination with other medicines. If that happens, the consequence can sometimes be fatal because of the level of toxicity reached in the human body.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My constituency of Bracknell has a drugs problem, and drugs are, of course, endemic across the UK and beyond. I wish, briefly, to commend all those involved in the fight against drugs, including the police, the blue-light services, the NHS, probation services, local councils. However, more needs to be done, which is why I commend my hon. Friend for his Bill and thoroughly support it. Does he agree that the utility of his Bill, when it comes to approved premises, is that it identifies those who are clearly still taking drugs as part of that process but, more importantly, it identifies people who may be taking drugs and are in need of further rehabilitation and support? Can I ask him therefore to commend the very positive aspects of his Bill?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is exactly the point I raised earlier when I mentioned the key being rehabilitation. I will come on to talk a little about exactly what will happen if somebody fails a drug test once the Bill is implemented, should it end up passing today and making it through the other place.

James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend says he will come on to the consequences for people failing a test. However, what if someone refuses to take a test? What actions could happen in that circumstance?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

If my hon. Friend is patient, I will also come on to that point in just a moment. It is all in my speech, I promise.

Returning to the need for this Bill, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which investigates deaths in custody, has made repeated recommendations on the urgent need for a comprehensive drug strategy for the approved premises estate, including expanding the range of drugs for which tests can take place. The Bill will do exactly that.

Of course, deaths are not commonplace in AP, and we should not imply that they are. However, the impact of drugs on the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals in both the short and long term is profound. Drug use also undermines an offender’s ability to engage in rehabilitation, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland), and potentially hampers an offender’s efforts to turn their back on crime at the very moment they most need to desist and begin a new law-abiding life.

The Bill will enable Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to create a comprehensive framework for drug testing in approved premises. It will bring APs in line with the testing regime that was recently introduced across the prison estate—to which I referred a moment ago, in response to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell)—and that was established by the Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill, which was introduced in the last Session in the name of the former right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, the late Dame Cheryl Gillan.

Dame Cheryl and I discussed her Bill in some detail; she knew I had experience in this area and was very interested in it. She was very clear on the positive impact that these changes could have on prisoners. The fact that her Bill received no opposition during its passage and received Royal Assent is just one further example of the tremendous legacy left by Dame Cheryl. She is very much missed in this place and, I would like to say, across the whole of Buckinghamshire and more widely across the country.

I recognise that some right hon. and hon. Members might wonder why drug testing does not already exist in approved premises. I would like to reassure them that there is already some provision in place, although it is far from sufficient for today’s landscape of substance misuse. Currently, residents are tested for drugs if they are asked to do so by staff in accordance with the house rules that they accept as a condition of their residence in the approved premises. Although that provides a basis for some drug testing, it does not set out a comprehensive statutory framework for the testing of illicit substances, for the type or scope of substances that may be tested, or for the types of samples that may be taken. What is more, at present, HMPPS tests residents only on a risk and suspicion regime and can test for only four groups: opioids, cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines. In short, the current testing regime is unsatisfactory and insufficient, hence the need for the Bill before the House today.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing his Bill this far, and I wish him well in its further passage. It is an important Bill. He has fluently described the changing patterns of drug use, the different substances and the ever-changing types of drugs used that are a blight on our society. Does he agree that, by bringing forward a robust and regulated drug-testing system, his Bill will provide an effective response to the ever-changing picture of the types of drugs in use? He has mentioned psychoactive substances. Given that ever-changing picture, an approved testing regime will help.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention; once again he demonstrates knowledge of the impact of drugs on the human body. He has expertise on animal bodies rather than human bodies, but he demonstrates none the less a profound understanding of pharmacology and the changing pattern of drugs. There has been great news about prescription medication—we have seen real advances in drugs. However, there is a flipside to that, which is that there is an ever-growing group of criminals who seek to exploit scientific development and advances, and use them to prey on the most vulnerable in society. What we need to do is help those who might fall prey to that victimisation. That is why this testing regime will result in help, guidance and support, alongside potentially criminal consequences if the misuse is continued or results in particularly poor behaviour.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again. He brings up the point about the different types of drugs that are available. I was not going to bring this up, but he has made the important point that some of the drugs that are misused in society are used in a veterinary setting, perhaps for analgesia and anaesthesia—ketamine, for instance. It is important that legislation is passed that mitigates, reduces and cancels out the inappropriate use of drugs that are so beneficial in human and veterinary medicine, but create such a blight for people if they are misused. They are dangerous and potentially fatal.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I thank my hon. Friend for sharing his expertise and contributing to the greater education of Members across this House. By expanding the range of substances that can be tested for, and taking the step to require that testing be done on urine, the Bill will increase HMPPS’s ability to detect and address drug use quickly and efficiently. As I have already indicated, the Bill will extend the range of substances that can be tested for. It makes provision to test all residents in approved premises for controlled drugs, psychoactive substances and prescription-only medicines.

I will now move on to the manner of testing. Approved premises currently test for drugs using oral fluids. However, relatively few drugs can be detected reliably in oral fluid. That means that the current testing regime has a limited capacity to identify drug use among residents. As a result, residents’ needs are not identified and treatment and care cannot be planned or managed effectively. The move to urine testing will allow HMPPS to both test for a much wider range of substances and, crucially, provide a longer timeframe in which to detect the use of illicit substances. That is because certain drugs are only detectable for a relatively short period of time in oral fluid—12 to 24 hours—but in urine some drugs, such as heroin, are detectable for up to five days. Clearly, this increases the opportunity to detect the use of substances and will provide an additional deterrent to those who might be tempted to abuse them.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again—he is being very generous. I have a question for him, but I do not want him to think that because I am questioning what he is doing I am opposed to it. I am not—I support him. Could this new power fall foul of article 8 of the European convention on human rights, and if so, what would be the consequences of this?

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My understanding is that, in the preparation of the detailed proposals for the implementation of this Bill, colleagues at the Ministry of Justice have considered exactly that and do not believe it is of concern. They believe that the proposals all comply with such legislation.

The introduction of prevalence testing in this Bill will enable HMPPS to increase understanding of the ever-changing drug landscape and, in turn, allow staff to take appropriate action to tackle the threat of drugs in approved premises. After all, it is difficult to work out what to do to solve a problem, or how much resource to devote to it, if the extent of the problem is not known in the first place. The provision in the Bill to undertake periodic prevalence testing will entail the use of residents’ samples to test for the prevalence of controlled drugs, psychoactive substances and prescription-only medicines on an anonymised basis, as was indicated earlier.

In sum, the framework provided for by the Bill will enable HMPPS to respond effectively and flexibly to changing patterns of drug misuse. It will enable HMPPS to improve the identification of residents who are misusing substances to enable robust and appropriate referrals into treatment, together with the development of appropriate targeted care planning. It will enable better identification of elevating or decreasing risk of serious harm to the public based on a resident’s drug misuse. Finally, it will support the development of a comprehensive drugs strategy, building a body of evidence on drug misuse within the resident cohort of APs, which will widen understanding and identification of the corresponding and consequential actions that need to take place, either at a practical level by HMPPS or at a policy level in the Ministry of Justice.

I believe that, as a result, the Bill will have a tangible effect. It will enable us to better identify and respond to new and emerging patterns of drug use in approved premises, help provide the necessary care and treatment for individuals and, ultimately, support reductions in reoffending. Throughout the passage of the Bill and, indeed, throughout my speech, I have been grateful for the support of colleagues across the House. Many of them were unfamiliar with the challenge that the legislation attempts to address and, quite understandably, several have raised specific questions, so, as promised, I will take a few moments to give a little more context and detail on the appropriate areas.

In terms of the change in drug testing practice, the new regime will test every resident at least twice during their stay in the approved premise. A typical stay is approximately 12 weeks. For those who have been imprisoned on terrorism offences, it can be up to a year, but the average stay is about 12 weeks. There will potentially be two tests during that 12-week period, and HMPPS anticipates the consequence of that will be around 20,000 tests a year. Colleagues may remember I mentioned the current risk and suspicion-based testing regime. That will continue on top of the enhanced regime: the testing at specified times in the approved premises, which the Bill will establish. If staff are suspicious or risks are identified, there will be testing on top of that.

The consequences for someone failing a drug test are absolutely critical. The initial step would be a discussion between a staff member and the resident, and the primary aim would be to tackle the misuse. At that first stage, an improvement plan is likely to be initiated. That could incorporate referrals to appropriate services to provide the right help for each individual, probably consisting of signposting or the referral of residents to substance misuse services, and liaison with their probation officer. I want to emphasise that, although there needs to be rigour and discipline in approved premises, my aim in the Bill is for it not to be a purely punitive exercise. If, though, the drug use was a direct breach of a licence condition or it resulted in inappropriate behaviour, it could ultimately result in a recall to prison. However, HMPPS does not, as a matter of course, initiate breach or recall based purely on an initial positive drug test.

Consideration has also been given to the possible reaction of residents in approved premises when the new regime is introduced, not least given the vulnerable stage of their progress from prison to the community at that stage. Naturally, neither I nor the MOJ would want to do anything to jeopardise progress towards rehabilitation. Given that residents already sign an induction pack, which includes a number of rules, including the limited drugs testing I explained earlier, it is not expected or foreseen that there will be a significant problem. What is more, for those arriving at APs from prison, they will already have experience of the enhanced testing regime being proposed from their time in custody. Indeed, staff at approved premises to whom I spoke suggested that the change could be regarded positively by residents because it does, after all, signify increased investment in their wellbeing and rehabilitation.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) asked about the consequences if a resident refuses to comply with the terms of the compulsory drug testing regime. In that situation, if they are on conditional bail with testing as a condition and they are not complying with the terms of the regime, they will have breached their condition of bail. There are some people in approved premises who are deemed to be at high risk and are there while still on bail, as opposed to those who are in the approved premises having been released from custody. In that situation, if they have breached their bail, they can be arrested by the police and brought back to court, where the magistrates or judges have three options. They can continue the bail conditions as they are—essentially, reimposing the same conditions. They can make the conditions more stringent. Or they could, ultimately, remand the person in custody. If a resident on licence—someone who has been released from prison and is in approved premises almost as a halfway house between custody and the community—declines to be tested, consideration will be given to their suitability to stay within those approved premises, because there is that contract of engagement as part of going to the approved premises, and that could also result in their recall to prison.

We must always be aware of the financial implications of new policies. HMPPS estimates that when it implements the change in testing, it will cost approximately £1.2 million per year to carry out the enhanced testing regime with residents of approved premises. The current annual budget for drug testing in approved premises is £350,000, so the implementation of this Bill would see an increase of some £850,000. However, it is worth bearing it in mind that the Ministry of Justice has indicated that it has evidence that shows that drug treatment provides a return to society of £4 for every £1 that is invested, and that increases to a return to society of £21 over a period of 10 years. I would therefore suggest that the testing proposed in the Bill and the subsequent treatment in fact represent very sound spending, which I am sure will be music to the ears of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I hope that I have addressed as fully as possible the aims of the Bill and the potential impact that it could have. In many ways, it is a small step, a minor change, but having spent well over a decade in various roles in the criminal justice system, I am all too aware that the path to rehabilitation can be slow, painstaking and full of setbacks, but every little step can make a difference. Every day without drugs is a good day for someone who has previously been dependent on them. Every opportunity to increase the prospect of someone living a crime-free life is an opportunity that we should seize, and I am proud to do so today with the Third Reading of this Bill.

12:32
Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

After what has been a difficult week for many of us, it is absolutely lovely to be here in the Chamber with so many colleagues, and so many Conservative colleagues, working together and doing important business in this place—scrutinising Bills and getting Bills passed. I briefly offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) on the successful passage of his Bill a half-hour or so ago. I fervently hope that in half an hour’s time, I will be offering the same congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler).

I congratulate my hon. Friend on everything that he has achieved with this Bill. From his declaration of interest, it is clear that he literally fits the bill in this instance, given his experience as a magistrate and with the Sentencing Council and everything that he talked about. I was pleased to be able to attend the Chamber and intervene on him on Second Reading. I was disappointed that I was unavailable for his Public Bill Committee, but I have read through the good debate that took place in that Committee as well.

As my hon. Friend said in his speech today, 80% of crime that involves cautions or convictions involves repeat offences. Anything that we can do to support rehabilitation, in both the criminal sense and the health sense, we should do, and approved premises, as he has rightly identified, are a huge part of that. They are of course undermined, as he said, if residents are accessing drugs—in particular, psychoactive substances such as Spice, or Skunk. As I said in my intervention, there is the problem of the domino effect: if drugs are in a place, it makes more people likely to use drugs because they realise that there is not a regime that takes that seriously, and it is more likely to put them in an unstable position that sends them back to the place they have come from.

As my hon. Friend said, the existing regime is now inadequate for the challenge that we face. His Bill is very much part of the answer to that. It is only part of the answer; Government investment and Government strategy are absolutely key on drugs, too. Therefore, I was glad that in Committee, the Policing Minister outlined the Government’s strategy and their investment into tackling the scourge of drugs, which he said is happening on three levels: first, trying to cut off the supply of drugs and preventing drugs getting into the country through tighter control of our borders and airports; and thirdly—I will come to his second point in a moment—there is a generational shift in the appropriateness of drugs. More teenagers probably took drugs when I was a teenager than now. We are winning the war on drugs. For a long time, it has been fashionable to say that we are not winning, but it is a winnable war. What my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury is doing today will be a huge part of that.

The Minister’s second point in Committee was that we are creating a world-class treatment and recovery system, which is germane to the Bill. There is also money going into tackling drugs. Good intentions and strategies need to be backed up by Government investment, and nearly £900 million of additional funding is being put in over the next three years, which brings the total up to £3 billion.

I will be brief, because I know that several hon. Members wish to speak. With that investment and the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, I am greatly reassured that the Government—unlike the Labour Mayor of London, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) said—are determined to tackle the scourge not just of drugs and the damage that they do to people’s health, but of crime that is associated with drugs that ruins other innocent people’s lives. Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury on his efforts to get to this point and I look forward to voting for the Bill in the near future.

12:36
James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) on successfully bringing the Bill forward to this stage. I welcome the fact that it is concise and precise legislation. Indeed, it is probably short enough for the former right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Kenneth Clarke), who did not have time to read the Maastricht treaty, to skim.

The Bill is about public safety in approved premises—hostels in communities—that provide temporary accommodation for people who have been released from prison but are considered to present the highest risk to the community, so that they can get additional residential supervision, rehabilitation and support. As has been said, such premises also support people on bail as well as high-risk offenders serving community sentences.

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury that, regrettably, the number of deaths among approved premises residents has increased in recent years, with much of that driven by the scourge of drugs. With more than 2,000 bed spaces, it is important for there to be a comprehensive drugs strategy for the approved premises estate.

Aside from being illegal and damaging for individuals’ health, taking drugs also undermines rehabilitation efforts, which may therefore lead to more offending. My North West Norfolk constituents want action to be taken to deal with that. I welcome the Bill and the proposals to put in place a comprehensive framework for testing. Importantly, it is consistent with the one that operates in prisons.

It is a sad fact that the Bill has needed to ensure that a much wider range of drugs is included, so it covers prescription drugs, medicines and psychoactive substance. I welcome the fact that by including prevalence testing, and putting it on a firmer statutory footing, we will be able to track emerging trends so that they are identified and to react more quickly to changes in drugs use.

I know from debates on Second Reading and in Committee, and from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury earlier today, that the critical issue of the consequences of failing a drugs test has been considered. In the first instance, it is important that the staff talk to the individual, point them to substance misuse organisations and make a plan to help them to stop taking drugs. He may have some current data on how successful those efforts are after failed drugs tests, but ultimately, if they are unsuccessful, there should rightly be consequences, as he said, with police involvement or recall to prison if they have breached licence conditions.

Once again, I turn eagerly to the commencement clause. The Act will come into force only when regulations are laid, rather than on the day on which it passes. I am sure that the Minister will assure me that those regulations are well developed and will be brought forward rapidly once the Bill is on the statute book.

It is a modestly sized Bill, but drug use is a major problem that drives crime in our communities, whether that is theft to fund a habit or violence or other criminal behaviour when people are off their heads on Spice or other substances. It will help to deliver our commitment to the people who put us here to make their streets and communities safer, so I am pleased to support it today.

12:39
Lia Nici Portrait Lia Nici (Great Grimsby) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for introducing the Bill. As others have said, it is a concise and precise piece of legislation which will hopefully give Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and others associated with approved premises a broader understanding of the needs of people in such premises.

The prevalence of drugs is of great concern to all of us, as is the huge—indeed, worldwide—business that continues to promote it. In my own constituency, I am concerned about the pain that people must be going through to want to take drugs in order to remove themselves from real life, when there are so many valuable things we can do when we are fully focused on real life.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is making a powerful and heartfelt speech. I know that, given her experience in her constituency and what she did before she came to the House, she is aware of the risk that drugs pose to young people; perhaps she could say a little about that. As I said in my own speech, I believe we are seeing a generational shift, and I think the Bill will be part of it.

Lia Nici Portrait Lia Nici
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend has alluded to my career in education and working with young people, including children and teenagers. I believe that, thankfully, we are seeing a cultural shift as people start wanting to be healthier and live longer. The progress with vaccination in the last couple of years has shown that people want to lead healthier lives, and to be more careful about what they consume. We know that in criminal circles drugs provide a way of coercing and controlling people, especially young people, who, even if they are not starting to take the drugs, are delivering them. The clampdown on county lines is making a huge difference in towns such as Great Grimsby, where, at various communication and travel points, youngsters on bicycles can be seen meeting people with carrier bags or rucksacks.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury will be able to respond to this point, but obviously the biggest concern is that if people in residential approved premises are being tested regularly, presumably they are able to get hold of and take drugs while they are in such premises. Perhaps the Minister will be able to say whether it will be possible for that to be pinpointed in the Bill. It is not just a question of rehabilitating offenders, ex-offenders, or people going through the various stages of a sentence or post sentence; what about those who are clearly getting hold of illegal substances while they are in those premises? Will this or other legislation allow for us to find out what is happening with the supply and where it is coming from—whether it is coming from people who are visiting, whether people are going out into the community to get it, or whether, sadly, it is coming from people who are employed in the system?

Although this is a tight and concise piece of legislation, it is vital in our fight against drug use, and hopefully it will help us not only to rehabilitate people, but to pinpoint where those supplies are coming from.

12:43
Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Like other hon. Members, I applaud my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for his efforts to enhance the capability of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to detect illegal drug use. The Bill will be an important tool to enable HMPPS to understand the prevalence and nature of substance abuse in approved premises.

I am particularly encouraged by the Bill’s holistic approach to tackling drugs misuse. It will work well with a number of the Government’s key priorities; it chimes with the beating crime plan, complements the prisons strategy White Paper and adds to the focus on transparency in the new drugs strategy. One thing that struck me on reading the Bill was that its provisions are very much targeted towards help and guidance for those in approved premises, rather than towards prosecution. I think we all agree that if somebody has a drugs problem, it is better to help than prosecute them.

I accept that the Mayor of London is trying to do his best about drug use among young people, particularly in Bexley, Lewisham and Greenwich, by not prosecuting under-25s caught in possession of a small amount of drugs. However, I think that that policy will give a very clear steer to the gangs peddling drugs that they can persuade young people that a small amount of cannabis will be okay and that they will get away with it. I do not think that that is the right message to send our young people.

I particularly praise the Bill for giving agencies the ability to understand and respond to new and emerging patterns in drug use in approved premises, ultimately aiming to reduce it and support reductions in reoffending. I also welcome the fact that it will support the development of effective practice in tackling substance misuse, supporting recovery and building a body of evidence on drug misuse among the offender cohort. My concern, however, is that people living in approved premises are not typical offenders; they often have complex problems. Keeping that in mind, our approach to drugs and dependency in approved premises must always be underpinned by assessment and empathy.

Overall, consistency of testing and treatment from prison to the community can and will be vital in ensuring that approved premises, which we are expanding on, are safe and drug-free, and that the risk of serious harm is reduced for the individual, for other residents and for the wider public. I am therefore delighted to support my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill today.

12:47
Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a privilege to speak in this debate and to further support my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler), who has expertly guided the Bill through its early stages. He and I know what a rollercoaster ride the stewardship of a private Member’s Bill is; I pay tribute to his hard work and tenacity. Having spoken on Second Reading and in Committee, I am delighted to have the opportunity of completing the set, as it were. As I outlined at the earlier stages, the Bill is warmly welcome: it is vital to protecting our nation’s rehabilitation services and staff members in approved premises up and down the country. I am proud to support its progress and glad that it has reached Third Reading unamended.

For too long, staff members of assisted premises have been left without the appropriate and necessary support from lawmakers here in Westminster, so they have had to rely on antiquated legislation that has not evolved to match new challenges. Their important but often unrecognised part of our criminal justice system is vital in assisting with rehabilitation; approved premises are important in supporting the minority of individuals who are deemed at high risk of harm or of reoffending. Their work ensures that those at the highest risk and with the most complex needs receive additional, targeted residential supervision and rehabilitative support. At the sites, their needs are supported and they are protected and supervised as they are gently reintroduced into society, in the hope that they can become productive and effective members once again.

As I set out on Second Reading, Darlington is served by Nelson House and the Crescent in Middlesbrough, and it is clear that staff there have gone above and beyond to provide the necessary specialised support. Under clause 1 of the Bill, approved premises managers can authorised assisted premises staff to ask for and require a urine sample from any resident, rather than an oral fluid test—a provision already in place elsewhere in the system. This is achieved by allowing Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to create a comprehensive yet fair drug testing framework in approved premises. Importantly, it allows the drug testing framework to respond flexibly as managers and staff adapt to patterns of drug misuse and improve the identification of their residents misusing substances, ensuring that appropriate care planning and referrals to specialist treatments are in place.

The Bill seeks to capitalise on improving technology by using the definitions of those substances and medicines already set out in legislation, including in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. I was glad to hear reassurances during the Bill Committee that clause 1 also ensures that the first step will be to provide guidance and assistance for those found to have drugs or other illicit substances in their bodies. I am glad that this short yet impactful Bill grants staff the legislative powers that they need to prevent wider prevalence of drug misuse within their premises and tackle ever-changing and evolving patterns. It builds on the recommendations of the prisons and probation ombudsman, which in 2017 called for more effective drug testing practices and better staff guidance to identify and address the risks associated with substance misuse.

The Bill places approved premises on a much firmer legislative footing when it comes to protecting residents. I fully support my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury in his efforts to guide the Bill on to the statute book. I look forward to the Bill’s completing its remaining stages.

12:51
Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for bringing the Bill before the House. I believe it is not only a fantastic piece of legislation but fits perfectly within wider Government strategies to deal with the influence and issue of drugs in our communities. It will set a comprehensive statutory framework for the testing of illicit substances in approved premises and will enable an increase in testing, thereby hopefully reducing the number of drug-related deaths in approved premises. For that reason, I strongly support it.

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s comments on the focus of the Bill being guidance and help rather than just prosecution. We need this sort of balanced and compassionate approach when dealing with this complex and multifaceted issue. The more humane we are as a society and in our approach, the better chance we have of actually helping those in need to break the cycle of drug abuse and reoffending, giving people another chance in life.

What is so important about the Bill is that it will help us tackle drug use in approved premises, where residents are most at risk, and will empower those staffing these premises to respond effectively to residents, with staff enabled to apply the relevant treatment, guidance and support. Prevention is better than punishment. The Bill’s enlightened approach will support the Government’s continued commitment to the general rehabilitation of offenders, help reduce reoffending and assist in getting vulnerable people’s lives back on track. Breaking the cycle of drug use and reoffending will clean up our streets and protect our communities. The Bill provides a robust response to the ever-changing means and methods of drug use.

It is important that we expand the methods of testing. The Bill will introduce urine testing rather than oral fluid testing. Few drugs can be detected reliably in oral fluid. Moving to urine testing allows a laboratory to test reliably for a range of illicitly used drugs. The Bill will also extend the range of substances that can be tested to cover all forms of psychoactive substance, as well as prescription and pharmacy medicines. It will allow the Prison and Probation service to respond effectively and flexibly to changing patterns of drug misuse and to improve the identification of residents misusing substances to enable appropriate referrals to treatment, together with the development of appropriate targeted care planning.

Back in 2017, the prisons and probation ombudsman outlined that approved premises need a more effective focus on drug testing and on managing the risks of substance abuse. The Bill will do just that; I am delighted to support it.

12:54
Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I commend the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for bringing forward this extremely important Bill. I want to start by thanking those who work in the criminal justice system in approved premises, prisons and the probation service. They do an incredibly challenging job and deserve our thanks.

As we have heard today, residents who are supervised in approved premises are not typical offenders. Often, they are high-risk individuals with additional problems and troubled pasts. They mainly house people released from prison with strict licence conditions in place. Approved premises play an incredibly important role in the rehabilitation of those who are there. Ensuring they are housed in safe and secure drug-free premises that support their rehabilitation and prevent reoffending is crucial not just for those who are placed there, but for the public at large, so everything must be done to protect residents from the supply of drugs, which in some cases has led to them offending in the first place.

I am deeply concerned, like other Members across the House, that drug deaths in approved premises have risen in recent years, and that the abuse of prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances is increasing. Psychoactive substances in particular are constantly evolving and becoming harder to detect and combat, and the hon. Member highlighted the profound effect such drugs can have on those who take them.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am interested to know the hon. Lady’s views on the Mayor of London’s proposals to allow under-25s not to be prosecuted. Perhaps it is the decriminalisation of drugs that he is suggesting for Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I am not surprised by it, particularly as I am a Member of Parliament representing Lewisham. I do not agree with the premise that it is the decriminalisation of drugs in our borough. Let us look at what the Mayor of London is doing: an extra 1,300 police officers and £70 million for opportunities for disadvantaged young people. The reoffending rate for people using the London Women’s Diversion Service, which the Mayor of London funds, is just 7% versus the national average of, I think, 23.3%. It is really important to look at what works, but it certainly is not the decriminalisation of drugs that the hon. Lady refers to.

Under the Offender Management Act 2007, residents of approved premises are required to submit to drug tests if requested by members of staff in some circumstances, but it is not a comprehensive scheme. The detection of prescription drugs and psychoactive substances in particular can be evaded. It is therefore clear that the current testing framework is far from perfect and we welcome the Bill, which would help to build a more comprehensive framework that enables approved premises to conduct drug testing in line with the regime used in prisons. Not only would that allow for the testing of a greater range of substances; it would allow offender managers to use urine testing, rather than oral fluid testing, which detects a far wider range of drugs over a longer period of time. The measures would also allow for anonymous sample testing to help to understand the extent of substance use and to help to identify any new substances.

It is absolutely right that managers of an approved premises should have the tools to identify drug misuse and better understand the types of drugs that are being used, but we are also pleased to see that the Bill provides assistance and rehabilitation. I welcome the points the hon. Member for Aylesbury made in relation to that not just today, but on Second Reading and in Committee. Residents who test positive for drugs will be directed to appropriate substance misuse organisations first, with punitive sanctions not the primary purpose of the new regime. That is something we very much welcome. All these measures will help offender managers to better support those in their care. That will not only improve the rehabilitation of residents but decrease the risk to members of the public.

However, to truly tackle drug use in approved premises we also have to look at what is happening in our prisons. Following over a decade of Tory Government, drug use in prisons has increased by 500%. Our overcrowded prisons are in crisis—failing to rehabilitate, failing to stem the tide of drugs flowing into them and failing to keep us safe. The Government hailed their prisons White Paper as a great success but it was merely a sticking plaster over the deep wounds caused by 12 years of Conservative neglect. The statistics speak for themselves. There has been a 12% drop in inmates enrolling in drug and alcohol courses over the last four years, with fewer offenders taking these programmes. That simply leads to greater addiction and inmates learning nothing but more criminality. And what of the Justice Secretary’s flagship programme of introducing £1 million X-ray scanners in all men’s prisons? They are detecting only a quarter of the number of contraband items being found in manual checks by prison officers. This is a Government that is high on tax but soft on crime. The perilous state of our prisons means that a third of adults released from custody go on to reoffend within a year, costing the taxpayer £18 billion and meaning that we are less safe on our streets.

We welcome the Bill, but unless the Government get to grips with the fundamental problems across our justice system they will be condemning many to a cycle of reoffending. I commend the hon. Member for Aylesbury for his determination in bringing the Bill before the House and I wish him every success as it passage continues.

13:01
Victoria Atkins Portrait The Minister of State, Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for the excellent work he has conducted over the last few months in introducing this important Bill and for navigating it to this stage. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) said based on his own experiences—I congratulate him too on his success this morning—getting a private Member’s Bill through can be a bit of a rollercoaster. It is great credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury that there is such warmth and support for his efforts and for this legislation in the House today. I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friends across the House for speaking so well and for giving such support to this important piece of discrete legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) gently reflected on the fact that it is good to be in this place talking about issues that really matter for our constituencies, and I echo his feelings on that. This legislation, coupled with the Government’s work across our drugs strategy and our prisons strategy, will really make a difference to our constituents across the country.

The Bill will play an important role in helping us to tackle illegal drug use, cut crime and save lives. I thank members of staff across the country, who work day in, day out to assist prisoners and offenders in getting back on to the straight and narrow and, importantly, to protect the public. Individual officers and members of staff do this work often without the public quite realising what they have to do or their enormous personal commitment to helping protect the public. I put on record my thanks to everyone doing this work day in, day out in approved premises, in probation and in our Prison Service.

The hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves) had a little pop from the Opposition Front Bench about X-ray scanners. I read with great interest the Opposition’s press release today about how X-ray scanners do not work. I do struggle to understand how the Opposition propose that prison officers are to detect concealed items in a person’s body. I have looked at the photographs and, believe you me, it would be quite difficult for a prison officer to reach down somebody’s throat, or another way, and remove something from their intestines, but who knows? The Labour party seems to be against X-ray body scanners. We are very firmly in favour of them. We are also in favour of drugs dogs and of members of staff doing manual searches. These things are just one tool in the Government’s determination to have a zero-tolerance approach to drugs in prison and in our society.

In December, we published our cross-Government drugs strategy, which represents an ambitious 10-year generational commitment to work across Government to address illegal drug use, including increased and enhanced testing in prisons and approved premises. We know the detrimental impact that drugs have on both the individual taking them and the wider community. Our strategy sets out three core priorities, which are: cutting off drugs supply; creating a world-class treatment and recovery service; and achieving a generational shift in the demand for drugs. I was particularly interested in the contributions on that from my hon. Friends the Members for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici) and for Newcastle-under-Lyme. They are right that such work must sit hand in hand with greater education—particularly of our young people—so that people understand the enormous costs involved in taking drugs both for themselves personally and for wider society.

Our vision goes beyond just treatment. We know that people who suffer from addiction also have multiple and complex needs for which they need support. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) used the word “empathy” about such approaches. She is right, and in a characteristically informed and knowledgeable way she showed how that requires not just our ambitious efforts to crack down on drugs supply but a little understanding of why people may find themselves addicts in the first place. We want to deliver a joined-up package across treatment, accommodation and employment. The strategy is underpinned with total investment of £3 billion in combating drugs over the next three years.

The prisons strategy White Paper, which sits alongside the drugs strategy and this discrete piece of legislation, sets out our ambitious plans to reduce reoffending and protect the public. It defines our goal for prisons to have a culture of zero tolerance to drugs and an approach that ensures meaningful and lasting recovery for all prisoners. Prisoners will be supported to use their time in prison to become free from drugs. On release, accommodation and employment support will help them to stay away from drugs and crime.

It is important, however, that work to tackle substance misuse continues outside prison. The Bill will ensure that we can understand and react quickly to the changing patterns of drugs misuse that exist in approved premises and hamper an individual’s chances of rehabilitation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury set out, the Bill will implement a rigorous drug testing framework, enabling mandatory drug testing for psychoactive substances together with prescription and pharmacy medicines. It will enable us to test for a wide number of substances for longer and will help to identify prevalence trends so that we can focus our preventive and, indeed, investigative work.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) asked a perfectly fair question about the consequences for someone who fails a drugs test. We very much want to incorporate the empathy referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster, but we also want there to be consequences. If a resident fails a drugs test, there will be discussions with them, and an improvement plan may be initiated with referrals to appropriate services. We are conscious that although there needs to be rigour and discipline in approved premises, we do not want the exercise to be purely punitive. We therefore aim to signpost and refer residents to substance misuse services, liaising with probation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) emphasised the vital role played by staff. He is right to pay tribute to them, because the staff in approved premises will be leading the work in helping residents make the changes that we all want them to make.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk also asked about regulations. I am told that no further legislation is required—it is more that guidance and authorisations will be required. Officials aim to implement that as swiftly as possible, because we want this work to continue. In closing, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury again for all his hard work in getting the Bill to this stage. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is also a rare opportunity for Ministers to thank at the Dispatch Box the unsung heroes who exist in every single Government Department, drafting legislation and providing assistance to Back Benchers when they are navigating a private Member’s Bill through the House. As such, I thank the Bill manager, Alice Harrison, and other officials including Graham Mackenzie, Alisha Hubert, Shelley Smith, Janet Thomas, Adam Hartley, Janet Cowdrey, and parliamentary counsel Justin Leslie and Amy Perkins for all the work they have done quietly from backstage, making sure that my hon. Friend is able to achieve what he wants to achieve.

I am pleased to reiterate the Government’s support for this important, discrete piece of legislation, and I wish it well in its progress in the other place.

13:10
Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the leave of the House, I would like to thank all those who have assisted me in getting the Bill this far. First, though, I must apologise that in the heat of the moment, I inadvertently misled the House when I suggested that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) who stewarded the Prisons (Substance Testing) Act 2021 through the House on behalf of Dame Cheryl Gillan, when it was in fact my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden). I cannot think how I possibly mistook the two; I leave that to others.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his generous apology. I suspect that as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham is five years younger than me, he may be getting an angry text from him, rather than me. [Laughter.] I understand that he has a similar problem with my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild): perhaps he could address that.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do indeed: it is my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk who is often angry, because he is, I think, 10 years younger than I. I will move on, but I beg the indulgence of the House and apologise profusely for inadvertently misleading the House and Members.

First, I thank the Ministers in the Ministry of Justice. My right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) has been alongside me throughout much of this process, but today, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) has picked up the mantle with her normal expertise on the brief. I am very grateful to her for stepping in today, and to both Ministers for their help, assistance and advice. I echo my hon. Friend’s words and extend my thanks to the Ministry of Justice civil servants whom she has just named. They have worked incredibly diligently on this Bill, devoting many hours of work to its progress, and have been a constant source of information, advice and—at times—just calm reassurance. I also thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, Mr Speaker, and the other Deputy Speakers for your guidance and for ensuring that there was always a firm hand on the tiller.

On the parliamentary side, my thanks go to the Chairman of the Bill Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), and all the Members who served under his chairmanship. If I may beg the House’s indulgence, for his expert knowledge of procedure, his willingness to answer even the most basic questions, and his warm, reassuring approach to a new MP potentially overwhelmed by the complexities of legislation, I record especial thanks to the Clerk of Private Member’s Bills, who sits at the table today. This would not have been possible without him, so I am deeply grateful to Adam Mellows-Facer. If I have broken protocol by naming him, I apologise, but I hope that all will understand the circumstances of doing so.

I thank my Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson). I also thank the Whip in charge of private Member’s Bills, my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) for her military-like precision and firm guidance, which right now extends to waving me to sit down. I will do so in 15 seconds after I finally, and most importantly, pay tribute to the staff working in approved premises, working alongside people at an incredibly sensitive moment in their lives. As the Minister has summed up so well, we owe a great deal of gratitude to them.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Occupants of the Chair have great sympathy when Members are confused with other Members. It is particularly difficult when the largest part of a person’s physiognomy is hidden: it can sometimes be very difficult, especially when people hide themselves at the far ends of the Chamber, but the hon. Gentleman got through.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

1st reading
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text
First Reading
15:30
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

2nd reading
Friday 25th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Second Reading
13:36
Moved by
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a privilege to move the Second Reading of the Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill, which was introduced by my honourable friend Rob Butler MP in the other place. I am pleased that, to date, the Bill has had a successful passage and received support from all sides.

Noble Lords may remember a Bill that was introduced last year by my noble friend Lady Pidding and my dear friend, the late right honourable Dame Cheryl Gillan, which focused on improving substance testing in prisons. It was welcomed in your Lordships’ House and has now received Royal Assent. I hope that this Bill, which has similar aims but for approved premises, will be similarly supported and gain a smooth passage.

I declare a personal interest in that I was a youth magistrate for over 20 years. I have now retired. I saw first-hand the destruction that drugs can cause and the path they can lead people down. It is a sad fact that many of the children who were before me may have ended up in approved premises at some point in their adult lives, so I know how important it is to help make them safer and more supportive environments for rehabilitation.

Approved premises provide temporary accommodation for the highest-risk individuals in the community, subject to supervision or rehabilitation. They exist to ensure that these high-risk individuals with the most complex needs receive additional, targeted residential supervision and rehabilitative support, following release from custody. They also provide supervision and support for a small number of bailees and high-risk offenders serving community sentences.

Patterns of drug misuse in both custody and the community are changing, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has made repeated recommendations about the urgent need for a comprehensive drugs strategy for the approved premises estate. In recent years, psychoactive substances have become much more prevalent within the illicit economy in approved premises. Prescription medicines are also abused by some residents, sometimes proving lethal. The use of drugs in approved premises can have a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of individuals in both the short and the long term, and it undermines an offender’s ability to engage in rehabilitation and turn their back on crime.

Currently, to ensure that approved premises are safe and drug-free, residents are drug tested if requested by staff, in accordance with the house rules they are required to accept as a condition of their residence. While this provides a basis for drug testing, it does not set out a comprehensive statutory framework for the testing for illicit substances, the scope of substances that may be tested or the types of samples that may be taken. This Bill is a response to this issue and would enable Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to create a comprehensive framework and bring approved premises in line with the testing regime used in prisons.

I turn to the content of the Bill. First, it extends the range of substances that can be tested for, in order to cover all forms of psychoactive substances, as well as prescription and pharmacy medicines. The Bill will also offer supportive measures that would help probation to combat an issue that we know of, whereby some approved premises residents bully other residents for their genuinely prescribed prescription medication. The Bill will enable offender managers to ensure that only those supposed to be taking such medications are taking them.

The Bill will also introduce urine testing, replacing oral fluid testing which is currently used. There are relatively few drugs that can be reliably detected in oral fluid. This means that the current testing regime has reduced capacity to quickly identify drug use among residents; as a result, residents’ needs are not identified, and care planning cannot be managed effectively. Moving to urine testing will allow probation to test for a wide range of different substances for longer. Although this varies depending on the substance being tested for, as a general rule, substances are detectable for hours in oral fluid, whereas with urine testing they are detectable for days.

Alongside mandatory drug testing, the Bill will provide an express power for the use of prevalence testing in approved premises, using residents’ samples to test for the prevalence of various substances on an anonymised basis. This measure is key in helping HMPPS to understand the ever-changing drug landscape and allow it to tackle the threat of drugs in approved premises. Taking appropriate action will reduce the risks to residents and provide them with appropriate treatment and support, which in turn will help to aid rehabilitation and support the efforts to reduce reoffending.

In conclusion, I hope that your Lordships will recognise the importance of implementing these changes. I believe that this Bill will make a tangible difference. It will enable probation to better identify and respond to new and emerging patterns of drug use in approved premises and, in turn, ensure that it can provide the necessary care and treatment for individuals to support their rehabilitation and prevent reoffending. I also believe that it will create more opportunities for positive interventions on those individuals who really need our help to become mentally and physically healthier and go on to lead crime-free lives.

I look forward to hearing noble Lords’ contributions and hope that the Bill will receive support across the House. I beg to move.

13:42
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sater. She is a former magisterial colleague of mine; we sat in the same youth court together for many years and we have both seen the types of cases to which she referred in the opening part of her speech. We in the Labour Party broadly support the Bill and welcome in particular the attempts to identify substance abuse in approved premises. This will allow the Government to respond effectively and flexibly to the changing patterns of drug misuse.

In my 15 years as a magistrate, I have seen the types of drugs coming to both youth courts and adult courts change multiple times. I understand that there is a constantly changing landscape and that testing regimes need to change to reflect that reality. We are happy to see that this Bill is about providing assistance with rehabilitation first, and prosecution second. Residents who test positive for drugs will be directed to appropriate substance misuse organisations first; if their behaviour continues, punitive sanctions could be implemented. However, this should not be seen as a substitute for what the Government must do: namely, invest in treatments, harm-reduction initiatives and supportive policies to reduce the prevalence of substance misuse in the community.

The noble Baroness—I might say “my noble friend” in this context—talked about urine testing. We welcome the introduction of urine testing alongside oral fluid testing. She spoke also about the greater range of substances that need to be tested. I have certainly been on a number of prison visits over the years where we have been told of the ever more imaginative ways of getting psychoactive substances into the prison. It is a constant battle for prison officers to try to reduce the number of these substances getting into the premises. She also spoke about anonymous sample testing. This is a reality of the situation, if I can put it like that. I have certainly heard the argument that, if the sample testing is anonymised, it is more likely to give a realistic reflection of the drug use in the institution being tested.

I shall say something about the background statistics, as I know the Minister is very keen on his statistics. The figures that I have are that, between September 2012 and August 2017, there were 46 deaths in approved premises and 29 of those were linked to drugs. In 2018-19, there were 20 deaths and, in 2019-20, there were 21. It is unclear how many of those are linked to drugs, but those were deaths in approved premises.

In 2017-18, the annual report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and the Probation Service said the use of synthetic drugs and psychoactive substances was getting out of control and that the problem was spreading to removal centres as well as approved premises, so it is a widespread problem. I think testing is part of the solution to that, but the real key is that the ministry has a realistic understanding of the extent of the problem. I support the noble Baroness’s Bill.

13:46
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Sater for introducing this important Bill today, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for his contribution to this short debate. As the only non-magistrate speaking in this debate, I will say that it has been a pleasure working with my noble friend on this issue. I am grateful for the broad support from the Labour Benches. The Government fully support the Bill. As with the complementary Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill that received Royal Assent last year, I hope this Bill receives unequivocal support across the House.

This Government are committed to tackling the causes of reoffending to keep our communities safe. We have heard some statistics; I shall add a couple more that I think underpin the need for the Bill. About 80% of crimes for which a caution or a conviction ensues are committed by repeat offenders, while around 62% of prisoners have either an alcohol or drugs need, or both. If you put those two statistics together, the case for the Bill is essentially made out.

We know that maintaining treatment for prison leavers is crucial to reducing reoffending. In December last year, we published our landmark cross-government drugs strategy, which represents an ambitious 10-year commitment to work across government to address illegal drug use, including increased and enhanced testing in prisons and approved premises. The strategy is underpinned by a record investment of nearly £900 million of additional funding over the next three-year spending review period. That will take the total investment in combating drugs over the next three years to £3 billion.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, noted, the commitment has to go beyond only treatment. We know that people who suffer from addiction also have multiple and complex needs for which they also need support, and we are leading the world in delivering a joined-up package across treatment, accommodation and employment. The Bill will allow us to deliver further on the commitments set out in the Government’s drugs strategy and ensure that every offender has access to treatment and support, enabling them to turn their backs on crime. It will ensure that we can understand and react quickly to the changing patterns of drug use that exist in approved premises and hamper an individual’s chances of rehabilitation.

As my noble friend set out, the Bill will implement a comprehensive drug-testing framework, enabling mandatory drug testing for psychoactive substances together with prescription and pharmacy medicines. Supported by the change to urine testing, this will enable us to test reliably for a wide number of different substances and for longer.

In addition, as the House has heard, the Bill also puts prevalence testing on a firmer statutory basis. That will improve our ability to identify emerging trends and ensure that we are able to react quickly. These combined measures will help us to tackle the use of drugs in approved premises and ensure that staff can respond effectively and implement the necessary treatment but also care planning.

The Bill will ensure consistency of testing and treatment from prison to the community, and will be vital in ensuring that approved premises are safe and drug-free, and that the risk of serious harm is reduced for the individual as well as for other residents and the wider public.

I conclude by again thanking my noble friend Lady Sater for introducing the Bill. The benefits of this legislation are clear to see, and I very much hope that this House will endorse and support the Bill.

13:50
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his support and his comments on the importance of follow-up with treatment and support for the residents in approved premises. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, from the Opposition Front Bench, whom I would also call my friend.

The Bill will enable approved premises better to identify and respond to drug use and, in turn, help provide the appropriate care and treatment for individuals on their path to rehabilitation and efforts to reduce reoffending.

Finally, I thank the clerks and the officials at the MoJ for their excellent guidance and advice on procedure during the preparation of the Bill.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

Order of Commitment discharged
Wednesday 6th April 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text
Order of Commitment
15:51
Moved by
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the order of commitment be discharged.

Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

3rd reading
Tuesday 26th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text
Third Reading
15:24
Motion
Moved by
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill do now pass.

Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I would like to say a few, very brief words. The provisions set out in this Bill will play an important role in helping to ensure that approved premises are safe and drug free. The Bill will enable Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to create a comprehensive framework for drug testing in approved premises and help ensure that the staff can respond quickly and efficiently and implement the important care and treatment needed to support an individual’s rehabilitation.

I would like to extend my great thanks to my honourable friend Rob Butler, who led this Bill through the other place, and my noble friends Lord Wilson and Lady Scott, as well as all the officials at the Ministry of Justice for their wonderful support and the House staff for their hard work in this, my first Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I too would like to welcome this Bill imminently passing. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, for the work she has done on this Bill and I also thank her honourable friend Rob Butler. It may be of interest to noble Lords that both the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, and Rob Butler were youth magistrates with me in London, so I know them both well.

This is an important Bill. Approved premises should be drug free. Drug types are changing all the time, and the Government and the approved premises themselves need the flexibility to make sure that the premises are as drug free as possible. I congratulate the noble Baroness.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start by congratulating my noble friend Lady Sater on her excellent work bringing forward this Bill and navigating it to this stage. I also thank my honourable friend Rob Butler MP, who introduced the Bill in the other place.

The Bill will play an important role in helping us to tackle illegal drug use, cut crime and save lives. In December last year, we published our cross-government drugs strategy, which represents an ambitious 10-year commitment to work across government to address illegal drug use, including increased and enhanced drug testing in prisons and approved premises. The measures set out in this Bill will help us understand and react quickly to the changing patterns of drug misuse that exist in approved premises and ensure that staff in them can respond effectively and implement the necessary treatment and care planning. This Bill will ensure consistency of testing and treatment from prison to the community and will be vital in ensuring that approved premises are safe and drug free. Once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sater, as well as Ministry of Justice officials, for their hard work in getting the Bill to this stage. I am pleased to reiterate the Government’s support and look forward to seeing this important legislation on the statute book.

Bill passed.

Royal Assent

Royal Assent
Thursday 28th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
12:38
The following Acts were given Royal Assent:
Local Government (Disqualification) Act,
Down Syndrome Act,
Animals (Penalty Notices) Act,
Professional Qualifications Act,
Skills and Post-16 Education Act,
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act,
Subsidy Control Act,
Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Act,
Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Act,
Glue Traps (Offences) Act,
Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act,
Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act,
Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act,
Building Safety Act,
Health and Care Act,
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act,
Pension Schemes (Conversion of Guaranteed Minimum Pensions) Act,
British Sign Language Act,
Judicial Review and Courts Act,
Nationality and Borders Act,
Elections Act,
Monken Hadley Common Act.