Water cannon would be 'useless' in London, peer claims


Former deputy London mayor, the Green Party's Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, has argued water cannon should not be licensed for use in the capital.

In January, London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote to the home secretary to say that he will consult the public on their views on use of water cannon in "extreme circumstances".

A final decision by London policing authorities is expected in February, Theresa May would then have to decide whether to license the machines.

Opening the debate on 12 February 2014, Lady Jones said: "The sort of disorder that's happened in last few years is often by small groups of people, moving quickly, staying in touch with mobile phones and social media. Water cannon would be useless in that situation, as police have admitted themselves."

A former member of the London Assembly, Labour's Lord Harris of Haringey, described the undertaking as "a mayoral vanity project" which would equip Mr Johnson with "a large hose to dowse the lower orders".

Lord Paddick, a Lib Dem and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, thought the police would risk looking like "an alien force that has so little respect that the only way they can maintain order is by force and such weapons as water cannon".

But the UUP's Lord Empey - who served on the police authority of Northern Ireland, where the cannon has been used - counselled against an "arrogant reaction that somehow policing in this country is so wonderful".

All speakers agreed the main use for the implement is in creating space between large groups of protesters or rioters.

Shadow Home Office spokesperson Baroness Smith of Basildon put forward her view that "the mayor of London and ACPO have failed to convince their colleagues across the country that policing demonstrations against the government is a good use of the resources involved in water cannon".

Responding for the government, Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said the government had received advice that "water cannon alongside other tactics may be of use in future in tackling the most serious disorder".

He emphasised: "Policing in England and Wales is however firmly grounded in the principle of policing by consent," and water cannons could not be licensed without consultation and monitoring.

"The home secretary will make a decision on the use of water cannon when she receives the authorisation package from Chief Constable David Shaw and at that time she will consider the factors," he told peers.

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