Illegal Drugs (Prisons)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th March 1999.

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley 12:00 am, 15th March 1999

What measures he is taking to curb the smuggling of illegal drugs into prisons. [74593]

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As part of an overall strategy that I announced on 25 January, a package of measures is to be brought into force from 1 April to deal with visitors and prisoners who smuggle drugs into prisons. Under those arrangements, visitors found smuggling drugs will normally be banned from visiting the prison for at least three months, and prisoners found or believed to be engaging in that activity will normally take all their visits in closed conditions for a period equivalent to a three months' entitlement. A number of improvements are also being made to security arrangements for prison visits.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I welcome the measures that he has taken and the fall in the number of recorded drug-taking incidents in prisons. Does he agree that it should be possible within a closed environment to reduce drug taking to almost zero? That would have a symbolic impact on the fight against drugs in society generally. If we cannot control drugs in a controlled environment, it makes it much more difficult symbolically to control drugs in society at large.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I accept entirely that we must aim to achieve a situation in which there is no drug taking in prisons. As long as we allow so-called open visiting in prisons, people are likely—although it is deplorable—to try to smuggle in drugs. That is why I have significantly toughened up the sanctions on prisoners and on visitors, whether they are family or not, who seek to smuggle in drugs.