THIS week, Chesham and Amersham MP Dame Cheryl Gillan writes exclusively to Bucks Free Press readers:

On 9th January, when my name was drawn 8th in the list of backbench MPs to present a Private Member’s Bill, it became clear how some of my Parliamentary calendar will be earmarked for the remainder of this year’s session.

In 2009 I headed the list and was fortunate to introduce the Autism Act.

Although my name is lower down the on the selection list this time, with the time for the consideration of Private Member’s Bills being limited, I’m determined to try my best to guide another Bill through its Parliamentary stages and on to the Statute Book.

The short title of the bill I’ve chosen to present this time is the Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill.

Having been the Shadow Minister for Prisons some years ago, I saw at first hand the ravages caused by illegal drugs in our prison system.

The use of psychoactive drugs may be a newer problem but these create their own dangers.

The use of psychoactive substances is an ongoing problem in prison because the current law means that testing for them requires a specific definition of each compound.

The people who create these drugs can therefore tweak the chemical composition and defy the law.

It is a time-consuming job to keep adding each and every new combination to the list of drugs which can be tested.

In practice the Government and Prison Service have to react rather than being proactive in carrying out testing for the fresh hazards as new formulations are constantly


Psychoactive drugs can cause cardiac, psychiatric and neurological health problems and can be fatal.

Their use can also lead to violence and other forms of harm.

It’s important that there should be generalised testing which I hope would help prisoners, enable their rehabilitation and contribute to a safer society.