Khat ban: Ministers did not assess impact on rising crime

The government has made no assessment of the extent to which crime levels in Yemeni and Somali communities will rise after khat is banned, a minister has admitted.

Home Office minister Norman Baker said the ban would lead to rising street prices for the drug, but insisted it was "too early" to judge the extent to which this will lead to rising crime.

"Factors which influence the price of controlled drugs in the illicit trade are complex. By controlling khat the aim is to curtail its availability and reduce demand," he said in a written statement.

Asked whether the Home Office had assessed the extent to which prohibition would cause a rise in crime levels he replied: "It is too early to determine this accurately."

Baker's comments follow a call by MPs for the government to halt plans to ban the drug.

The home affairs committee warned that any ban could push affected communities into criminality.

"It is baffling that potential friction, between already disadvantaged communities and the police, has not been fully considered," chairman Keith Vaz said.

"We cannot afford for those who are already marginalised to be pushed towards criminality or extremism."

He added that it was "extremely worrying" that ministers intended to ban the drug despite having little evidence that it causes harm.

The government has decided to push ahead with a ban on Khat despite their own advisers finding no evidence that the herbal stimulant causes social or physical harms.

A study by the Advisory Council on the Misue of Drugs last year found "no robust evidence" that Khat is damaging.

The report added that there was "no evidence of a direct causal link" between the drug and either medical or social harms.

The Home Office intend to push ahead with a ban anyway, claiming that there is a widespread "perception" that the drug is harmful.