Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:25 pm on 29th October 2021.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 2:25 pm, 29th October 2021

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend 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 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.