Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading
Friday 25th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 View all Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act 2022 Debates Read Hansard Text
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
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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.