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Theresa May and Boris Johnson refuse to close door to riot police using water cannons

Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday Theresa May was repeatedly pressed by Labour MPs to rule out water cannon as a way of controlling public protests. She repeatedly said that she hoped water cannons would not be used on British streets but did not completely close the door to the possibility. Scotland Yard, says the Daily Mail, believes it would be "foolish" to rule it out.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, reports Metro, pledged on Monday to oppose the use of water cannon to control protests but he, too, kept options open. "We live in a liberal democracy, I do not want to see the Met police engage in an arms race with the protesters," he said, ‘But, on the other hand, we need to keep this thing under review.’

From Hansard:

Screen shot 2010-12-14 at 08.33.28 Labour MP Jack Dromey: "The Home Secretary was reported yesterday as appearing to contemplate the use of water cannon; today, she appears to be ruling out the use of water cannon. Will she clarify this beyond any doubt: will she rule out the use of water cannon on British streets?"

Mrs May: "I made it clear in my earlier comments that I do not think anybody wants water cannon used on British streets. What I said in the interview yesterday is that the Metropolitan police will of course look at the range of tactics available to them to consider whether there is any tactic not yet used that they might wish to use. Currently, as I speak here today, the legal position is that water cannon are not approved for use on the streets of England and Wales. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully to my interview yesterday, he would have heard me make the point that we have a different approach to policing in this country from what is seen in many continental countries. I have reiterated that view in my statement today and in further responses to the questions put to me. In Britain, we police by consent, which depends on the link of trust between the police and the public-and long may that continue."

Labour MP Chris Bryant: "The Home Secretary seems to be equivocating a bit on the question of water cannon. She said that they were not legal yet, as if she was implying that she might be persuaded to change her mind. As one who experienced water cannon in Chile in the 1980s, I can assure her that they are entirely indiscriminate, can lead to panic among those who are protesting, and can cause serious injury. The last time they were used in Stuttgart was a couple of months ago, when two people were blinded by them. Will the Home Secretary therefore rule out giving permission for the use of water cannon in this country?"

Mrs May: "I have made the position absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman and others. I do not think that any of us want to see water cannon being used on the streets of England and Wales. I have said that several times in response to questions on my statement, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should have listened to my earlier answers."


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