HC Deb 19 February 1992 vol 204 cc345-6 4.19 pm
Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the treatment of prisoners who are addicted to drugs, and for consequential organisational changes; and for connected purposes. This Bill provides for the setting up of drug-free wings in prisons for the treatment of gaoled addicts. This morning, on the BBC's "Today" programme, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary discussed the recent crime figures. During the course of the discussion he disclosed that 40 per cent. of all crimes are drug-related. In other words, 40 per cent. of all crimes are committed either by somebody under the influence of drugs or in order to feed the habit. My Bill is intended to help to deal with this problem.

In my constituency at Stockport the police divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Whittle, has long contended that drug-taking has much to do with the recent explosion in property crime. This view is supported by Paul Cavadino of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, who said recently: Our own research department found that most young heroin users were social security claimants with an average legitimate income of £45 a week, but they spent on average £500 a week on heroin, and 80 per cent. of them were continuously involved in an enormous amount of crime to finance their drug habit. It is small wonder, then, that so many cars are broken into, handbags snatched and elderly people prayed upon—and worse.

The purpose of the Bill is to introduce spot urine tests for all prisoners and, furthermore, to make provision for special prison wings which prisoners addicted to drugs could volunteer to enter. Far too often people go to gaol as addicts and come out as addicts. Indeed, a recent reply from my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold), Minister of State for the Home Department, whom I am glad to see on the Front Bench, to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) disclosed that in the year ending 31 December 1991 there were 683 drug equipment finds in our prisons. There were many needles that had been sharpened and used over and over again. It is small wonder that there is an HIV explosion among prisoners.

Furthermore, 90 per cent. of males attending London drug dependency units have a history of conviction, and almost one quarter of all women going to gaol are estimated to be drug-dependent, and most of those are injecting. With the exception of Scotland—an addiction unit has been set up in Low Moss prison, Strathclyde—we have so far been doing little to improve the situation in gaols. Many addicts go to goal and come out just as addicted as when they went in.

My Bill provides that we follow the example set by prisons in Holland. Dutch prisons legislation provides for the setting up of separate wings designed for drug addicts. It is estimated that in Holland addicts comprise about 30 per cent. of the prison population. When remanded or sentenced, addicted prisoners are given the option of going into a drug-free unit manned by specially trained officers. Each inmate has to undergo a urine test every day, and if he fails once he goes back into the main stream.

The advantages of this system are twofold. First, if addicts anxious to be cured are kept in a rigid regime separate from mainstream prisoners they will not be tempted by prisoners dealing in drugs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) disclosed to the House, a recent British Medical Journal study showed that two thirds of convicted drug addicts found needles in prison and injected with them".—[Offieial Report, 14 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 452] It would be so much better to have urine tests instead of providing needles for addicts in gaol, as someone suggested.

The second advantage is that, if the detoxification programme is successful—all the signs from Holland are that it will be—there is less chance of former addicts reoffending. That would be good for my right hon. Friend's crime figures, good for addicts and, most importantly, good for the victims of crime, of which there are far too many. I commend my Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tony Favell, Mr. James Cran, Mr. Christopher Gill and Mr. Chris Butler.