Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 29th October 2021.

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Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury 1:52 pm, 29th October 2021

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.