Laughing gas canisters set to be banned, Gove says

It comes as the prime minister prepares to announce measures to tackle anti-social behaviour, ITV News' Shehab Khan reports

Nitrous oxide is set to be banned by the government as part of a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour.

The plan to ban the "increasing scourge" of laughing gas canisters is being brought in to stop public areas being turned into drug-taking “arenas”, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

It comes as the prime minister prepares to announce measures to tackle anti-social behaviour on Monday.

Officials said the government’s anti-social action plan was about establishing a “zero-tolerance approach where offenders know they will face the full consequences of their actions”.

Gove said: "Any of us who has the opportunity to walk through our parks in our major cities will have seen these little canisters which are examples of people not only spoiling public spaces - but also taking a drug which can have a psychological and neurological effect and one that contributes to antisocial behaviour overall."

It will be banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 but Gove said ministers had not yet decided at what drug classification level laughing gas would be set at.

Asked if the government is "really going to give people a criminal record for taking laughing gas", Gove - who has previously admitted to taking cocaine "on several occasions" two decades ago - said: "We want to make sure we deal with the scourge [of the canisters].

"It is the case that we need to be clear that there are types of activity, particularly types of activity that cause distress to others in public, which are unacceptable.

"It's absolutely right that we uphold the law in this case."

He accepted that ministers had been advised not to ban laughing gas but said the government had taken a different view. Told on the programme that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had recommended not legally restricting its sale, the cabinet minister said "ultimately it is ministers who are responsible."

Ministers "collectively" believe it is vital to "deal with this scourge... in the same way".

Gove said ministers also wanted to bring in “extended drug testing of people who are responsible for criminal and anti-social activity”, adding: “We need to deal with it.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell told Sky News that Labour “want to see” laughing gas banned. “I think we want to see it banned as well because I think it does cause a huge amount of littering, of disruption and of anti-social behaviour challenges as well," she said.

What did Boris Johnson really know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our sources, in their own words, listen to the definitive behind-closed-doors story of one of the biggest scandals of our era