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 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.