Home Affairs Committee Thursday28November2013 ***EMBARGO:00.01amFriday29November2013***
News Desks, Political, Home Affairs Correspondents
MPs CALL ON HOME SECRETARY TO ABANDON KHAT BAN
The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee today calls on the Home Secretary to abandon plans to control khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Committee recommends instead the introduction of a licensing scheme for importers of the plant.
The Committee concluded that
The Government’s decision to control khat was not based on evidence of medical or social harm. The Committee has subsequently not received any convincing evidence that the consumption of khat is linked to any medical or social harm, and to control it as a Class C drug would be disproportionate.
There has been no consultation with members of the Somali, Yemeni and Kenyan communities who use Khat in the UK, and also those who produce Khat abroad.The Committee concludes that the potential negative effects, both on the diaspora communities who consume khat in the UK, and on the growers who cultivate it in Africa, outweigh any possible benefits of the ban. The ban on Khat has the potential to specifically damage UK-Kenya relations. The Committee is concerned that an important relationship in the combatting of terrorism could be significantly and detrimentally affected.
The Government has postponed a Commons debate on the legislation to give effect to the ban, pending the Committee’s findings. If the Committee’s recommendations are accepted then there will be no need to go ahead with the current legislative proposals, though alternative measures for import licences may be required.
Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:
It is extremely worrying that such an important decision has not been taken on the basis of evidence or consultation. The expert Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs conducted a thorough review of the evidence and concluded that no social or medical harm resulted from the use of Khat. We support the Advisory Council’s findings.
The UK should not become a hub for the distribution of illegal khat. It is wrong to place legal importers in the impossible position of choosing between a life of potential hardship or one of crime. The best solution is the introduction of a licensing system for importers as a middle way between unregulated trade and an outright ban.
It is baffling that potential friction, between already disadvantaged communities and the police, has not been fully considered. We cannot afford for those who are already marginalised to be pushed towards criminality or extremism. It is vital that prohibition in the UK does not result in an increase in recruitment of Al-Shabab abroad.FURTHER INFORMATION:
Committee Membership is as follows:
Rt Hon Keith Vaz (Chair) (Lab) (Leicester East) Ian Austin (Lab) (Dudley North) Nicola Blackwood (Con) (Oxford West and Abingdon) James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Michael Ellis (Con) (Northampton North) Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West) Lorraine Fullbrook (Con) (South Ribble) Dr Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) (Cambridge) Yasmin Qureshi (Lab) (Bolton South East) Mark Reckless (Con) (Rochester and Strood) David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)