11th August, 2011, House of Commons
Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): If these riots had broken out in any city or town in Australia or America, the police would have had at their instant disposal water cannon, plastic bullets and tear gas. Across the UK, British people watched on television while police were instructed to stand back when shops were looted, homes were torched and cars were set on fire. Does the Prime Minister really believe that 24 hours’ notice of the use of water cannon is good enough? Is it not the case that this is not about police numbers, but about police being given the tools to do the job?
The Prime Minister: First, let me say to my hon. Friend that the police have access to baton rounds and they can make the decision to use them—in London, they came quite close to making that decision. That must be an operational decision for the police. The very strong advice from the police is that because, on the whole, they were not dealing with very large crowds, but with very mobile crowds who were intent on criminal behaviour, water cannon would not have been appropriate in those circumstances. That is the police view. The point that I have made is that we should be ready for every possible contingency in future, so we should know how we would answer future questions. That is why water cannon are now available at 24 hours’ notice.