Banning laughing gas will put an end to “hordes of youths loitering in and littering parks with empty canisters”, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said.
The Government unveiled new measures to crack down on anti-social behaviour on Monday, including making nitrous oxide a class C drug, which could see dealers and users facing jail time and unlimited fines.
Other pledges include trials of swifter justice measures and increased policing in areas of England and Wales deemed to have high amounts of low-level crime.
Drugs “devastate lives”, she said, arguing that the Government will “take the fight to the anti-social minority”.
Ms Braverman told MPs: “This Government will put an end to hordes of youths loitering in and littering parks with empty canisters.”
Under the plan, police will be able to drug-test suspected criminals in police custody for a wider range of drugs, as well as offenders linked to crimes including violence against women and girls, serious violence and anti-social behaviour, Ms Braverman added.
“While the Leader of the Opposition and the mayor of London argue about cannabis decriminalisation, we are getting on with delivering for the public,” the Home Secretary said.
“This Government is on the side of the law-abiding majority. We will take the fight to the anti-social minority.”
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed the Government’s crackdown was “too weak, too little and too late”.
“The Tory Government that has decimated neighbourhood policing. There are 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police and PCSOs on our streets today than there were seven years ago,” the Labour frontbencher said.
It goes against recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which recently concluded it would be disproportionate to bring in an outright ban.
Ms Braverman said she was “grateful” for the panel’s advice, but argued the Government was “entitled to take into account other relevant factors, particularly the emerging evidence that it does cause serious harm to health and wellbeing”.
However, Conservative former Home Office minister Kit Malthouse warned: “One of the issues that we need to avoid is that this substance moves from the legitimate market into the illegitimate market and becomes another hook for drug dealers to draw young people into their awful trade.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to tackle the “scourge” of drugs as he announced the plan during a visit to Essex on Monday morning.
The police recorded 1.1 million incidents of anti-social behaviour in the year ending September 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.