HC Deb 14 May 1970 vol 801 cc1442-3
28. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will institute an inquiry into the death of Francis McGuigan, aged two years, in Belfast on 7th August, 1969, in view of the fact that he was affected by CS gas used by British troops on the night of 3rd April, 1969.

Mr. Callaghan

This little boy died on 7th April, 1970.

I understand that the coroner has not decided whether an inquest should be held.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that responsible medical opinion and many other people in this country are very disturbed about the use of this weapon? Will he do something to speed up the definitive report of the Himsworth Committee on this matter?

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend is discussing the question of the use of CS gas in Northern Ireland, and it is not a subject which any of us would wish to dismiss lightly. I do not think that any deductions can be made from the death of this little boy as yet. As regards the Himsworth Committee's Report, I cannot expect that before the end of the year.

Mr. McMaster

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very large number of complaints arising from the use of CS gas, particularly as it effects people with bronchial and chest troubles? Will he take all the steps that he can to see that the powers of arrest of the Army in conjunction with the police are used, as they are a less inflammatory alternative to the use of the gas?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman constantly makes false allegations that the Army uses CS gas in a manner which is less than discriminatory. That is not so. It is used only when there are no alternatives.