HC Deb 20 May 1965 vol 712 cc1650-1
13 and 14. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether the Metropolitan Police are equipped to use non-lethal gas in an emergency;

(2) whether he will call for reports from chief constables as to the extent to which they are equipped to use non-lethal gas in an emergency.

Sir F. Soskice

Arrangements are being made to supply police forces in case of need with limited amounts of non-toxic tear smoke, which causes temporary incapacity but has no permanent harmful effects, for use in dealing with armed criminals or violently insane persons in buildings from which they cannot be dislodged without danger of loss of life. The tear smoke would not be used in any other circumstances.

Mr. Rankin

Can my right hon. and learned Friend give a little closer indication of the sort of circumstances in which this gas might be used so that it does not affect innocent and non-participating persons?

Sir F. Soskice

There might be the case of a violent lunatic who had barricaded himself in a house, possibly holding as hostage a member of the public, in circumstances in which it was quite impossible to approach the house or lay hands upon the lunatic without the lives of police officers and, possibly, bystanders being endangered through the lunatic or armed criminal firing shots at the approaching police officer or at persons within range. It is that sort of situation in which it is thought that much the best thing is to use a harmless tear gas which could not hurt anybody in the vicinity and would do no lasting harm to the lunatic or criminal.

Mr. W. T. Williams

What would be the long-term effect of such gas upon an innocent person who was caught in the fumes?

Sir F. Soskice

The answer is, none.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Is the Home Secretary aware that the House and, I believe, the country will appreciate that this facility is being made available to the police and that we believe that this is the right course to take?