Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill

We send people to prison for punishment, for public protection, and for rehabilitation. The availability and use of illegal drugs and psychoactive substances undermines all three goals. The possession and use of these substances is a specific criminal offence under a number of pieces of legislation. However, it is only possible for prisons and young offender institutes to test people for those substances if they are specifically named substances within the legislation. That clearly needs to change. It is probably optimistic to imagine, as my hon. Friend
the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) suggested, that any legislation may put us a step ahead of the criminals and those who bring substances into prisons, but at the very least, this Bill can make sure that the authorities are able to remain on the same lap as those who would bring these dangerous drugs into our prisons.

It is far too easy for the producers and the suppliers of drugs and psychoactive substances who, with minimal changes to the composition of those substances, can rebrand to stay outside the provisions of existing legislation. Parliament legislated four years ago for the broad generic definitions of psychoactive substances under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This Bill would bring that definition into the provisions on testing for drugs in prisons. To that extent, it is a huge step forward, and I congratulate both my right hon. Friend
the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) and my hon. Friend
the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) on bringing this Bill forward. It will help to make our prisons safer. It will help them to continue their important work to rehabilitate and reform prisoners, and it has my complete support.