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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 17th July 2013
The khat is not out of the bag

The Select Committees of the UK parliament have regular sessions where the members question the minister responsible for the department concerned about recent activities. Yesterday, the Home Affairs Select Committee heard from Theresa May, Home Secretary.

Catha edulis, khat

The early part of the session was spent hearing from other officials and public servants and Theresa May’s questioning began at around 1:16. After spending 3 minutes wrapping up the Aba Qatada affair, the committee moved on to the subject of undercover policing and the practices that were followed. Nineteen minutes were spent on this before turning to Europe and particularly the previous day’s debate in the House of Commons about rejecting standardised European law and order processes.

May talked about concerns that ‘Europe’ was looking to dictate how investigations should be run across the whole of Europe. She was asked whether the core of the issue is whether the UK parliament gets to decide on criminal justice policy or whether this is done by Europe. May accepted that is a concern but added that there is also the matter of the resources available to law enforcement. She implied that accepting the European measures could lead to crimes felt to be important by British people going unsolved and that the UK should decide what it wants its law enforcement agencies to do.

Catha edulis, khat

Six minutes were spent on this followed by twenty-nine minutes on counter-terrorism and immigration. At 2:13:40, the Chairman, Keith Vaz MP said it is time for ‘drugs & Dr Huppert’ who, after a brief discussion of the announcement of the availability of foil, brought up the subject of Catha edulis, khat. May said that she was concerned about the UK becoming a trafficking hub to the rest of Europe and took account of pressure from the communities concerned.

Hubbert pointed out that the ACMD examined the community opinions and reached a balanced view and asked if she isn’t worried about a UK ban leading to gangs taking over the trade and harm being done to local communities. May repeated the trafficking line and added that this problem has arisen since the ACMD report was published.

She also said that the regulation implementing the scheduling of khat will be made in the autumn so I could have kept my plants a little longer but it’s too late now.

The Home Secretary went on to say that she considered a number of issues that the ACMD didn’t but says nothing to justify that claim. The Chairman said that as someone who was born in Yemen he has had khat and he thinks people will continue to chew, ‘because they like it’, and it will be driven underground. The discussion lasted six minutes and a further seven minutes were then spent on police administration matters and the pending royal birth.

I’ve gone through the meeting in a fair amount of detail so you can assess the importance of the six minutes discussing khat. The question has to be: ‘What did we learn?’ Theresa May, in the discussion about European policing made it clear that she is putting the needs of the UK first, but then said the khat decision is because most of Europe has banned it and she doesn’t want the UK to help people smuggle khat into those banned countries. So, after saying, earlier, she doesn’t want UK police resources to be diverted to meet the needs of Europe she claims that the decision on khat is to enable police resources to be used to meet the needs of Europe.

I suspect that Julian Huppert knew he was not going to get anywhere in the time available and that is why he didn’t pursue this logical disconnect or ask Theresa May when she will be banning magazines with images that are illegal in many countries or when she is going to ban alcohol because, of course, that is also widely proscribed.

My point is that we still do not know the real reason for the decision to schedule khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act because the reasons put forward by the Home Secretary both before and at yesterday’s committee session are blatantly ridiculous.

It is clear to me that May always intended to ban khat and clutched at the straw offered by the Dutch government’s decision to ban it as a means of ignoring the expert advice.

Theresa May is demonstrably a very clever and very ambitious person. A clever, ambitious politician who doesn’t care about whole sections of the population. What could possibly go wrong?    

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