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UK minister resigns over coalition row on drugs policy

Press Trust of India  |  London 

A top British minister has resigned from the Home Office over differences with Conservative coalition partners on drugs policy, highlighting the tensions in the Cameron government ahead of general elections.

In one of the most public coalition spats in Britain, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said working with UK Home Secretary Theresa May - from the Conservative-led coalition - was like "walking through mud".

"They have looked upon it as a Conservative department in a Conservative government, whereas in my view it's a coalition department in a coalition government," he told The Independent newspaper in an interview just before handing in his papers to party leader Nick Clegg.

"That mindset has framed things, which means I have had to work very much harder to get things done even where they are what the Home Secretary agrees with and where it has been helpful for the Government and the department.

There comes a point when you don't want to carry on walking through mud and you want to release yourself from that," he added.

Baker, who was the crime prevention minister in the Home Office, has had a number of clashes within the department over sweeping changes required in the UK's drugs policy, including decriminalisation.

A recent Home Office report had concluded there was no obvious link between tough laws and levels of illegal drug use.

Baker said the report should end the "mindless rhetoric" on drugs policy, but the Conservatives believe the research did not offer "specific conclusions" and he did not believe in decriminalising drugs.

Baker's resignation is being seen as further evidence that relations are rapidly deteriorating within the coalition ahead of next year's general election.

"Despite these challenges, I am pleased with what I have been able to achieve, not least to have been the first minister with responsibility for drugs to have put prejudice aside and published an evidence-based approach to this important issue, despite repeated Conservative efforts to block release," he wrote in his resignation letter.

Clegg wrote back: "However complex the issues have been, or challenging the coalition relations have proved to be, you have handled the political relationships within government with great skill, always focusing on how to achieve liberal reform wherever you can.

First Published: Tue, November 04 2014. 16:30 IST
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