Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has accepted that the UK is 'plainly losing' the war on drugs but has reiterated that the Government is against any relaxation in the current laws on illegal substances.
Mr Clarke was speaking on the matter at the Home Affairs select committee and stated that he still had no blinding insight into the solution to the problems posed by the market for drugs.
"We have been engaged in a war against drugs for 30 years. We're plainly losing it. We have not achieved very much progress," he said.
Mr Clarke conceded that the UK Government's policy on drugs was not working. However, he denied that this was a reason for considering decriminalisation, saying that the law probably did act as a deterrent on some youngsters.
"The really key thing is to try to work out how to get fewer young people to start experimenting with drugs," he said.
"One thing that does put them off is that they would get into trouble with the police," he added.
His comments come in the wake of those made by Virgin boss Richard Branson who recently claimed that governments had wasted billions of dollars fighting drug use. He believes that decriminalisation would immediately end funding of criminal gangs and would allow resources to be diverted towards tackling illegal dealers and helping addicts.
Mr Clarke's comments surprised many, including Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee.
"I was very surprised to hear the comments from the Justice Secretary that he regarded the war on drugs as lost. This has important implications on the way in which the Government is trying to deal with this complicated issue," he said.
"The Committee will continue its search to find a strategy that is based on both prevention of use and the prosecution of those who deal. As we heard during our visit to Columbia this can only be done through an international and national approach," he added.
Ken Clarke: Britain plainly losing war on drugs (The Telegraph)
UK is losing the war on drugs, says Ken Clarke (The Independent)