Parliament does not normally sit on Fridays, so that Members of Parliament (MPs) can go back to their constituencies.
However, usually once a month there is a 'sitting Friday' - this is given over to individual MPs who are not members of the Government to put forward Private Members Bills (PMBs).
These PMBs are usually small in scope and tackle a specific issue. For them to get through Parliament they need to be able to command the support of the Government - or at least the Government's acquiescence on a topic (sometimes very controversial issues can be decided via PMBs which may be an issue of conscience among MPs).
Friday, 16th October was one of these sitting Fridays. Richard introduced a PMB on behalf of Rt Hon Dame Cheryll Gillan MP, who is isolating at home due to illness. Her bill, The Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill, is targeted at one specific issue and has Government support too. The purpose of it is to allow testing in Prison for all Psychoactive Substances (i.e. drugs). Over recent years these psychoactive substances (formally called 'legal highs') have become an increasing issue in our prisons and have caused some prisoners to self-harm and others to attack guards.
The issue is that because they can be made from chemical products, they can be very easily tweaked and changed. This makes them difficult to detect and difficult to ban as every time the chemical compound is tweaked it has to be re-banned.
This Bill creates a 'catch all' determination of what can be tested for in prison in terms of psychoactive substances and means that as soon as a new product is discovered it can be quickly banned and tested for in prisons. This will make it easier to trace products and stop them getting into prisons. It will also make treatment easier, reducing reoffending - an it is hoped reduce attacks on guards and incidents of self-harm.
The Bill Richard was introducing for Dame Cheryll was second up after his new colleague Laura Trott MP introduced her bill banning Children from getting Botox and cosmetic fillers - another Bill with a small, specific target but another very worthy cause.
You can see Richard's introduction of the Bill at Second Reading on the link below.