HC Deb 01 May 1986 vol 96 cc1088-9
12. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people have been killed or injured by the use of plastic or rubber bullets in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Scott

Since the introduction of rubber baton rounds in 1970, and plastic baton rounds in 1973, 15 people are believed to have died as a result of their use by the security forces in Northern Ireland. Since 17 March 1981, when records were first collated, 326 have allegedly been injured, all by plastic baton rounds.

Mr. Canavan

Bearing in mind that most of the victims were children or young people, many of them innocent bystanders, who were killed, blinded, paralysed or suffered brain damage, and now especially since the tragic death of Keith White, the use of such lethal weapons has been rightly condemned by many people of the Unionist tradition as well as people of the Republican tradition, will the Government support my Bill next Wednesday to abolish this barbaric practice for ever from the whole of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Scott

I shall certainly not support any legislation which takes away from the security forces in Northern Ireland a means of protection against the sustained and vicious rioting which they have had to endure over the period of these troubles. It may also be worth mentioning that the European Court of Human Rights has found that the use of baton rounds in Northern Ireland constitutes reasonable force.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Can my hon. Friend say what other form of defence would be available to the security forces if baton rounds were eliminated?

Mr. Scott

The short answer to my hon. Friend's question is that I know of no other means of protecting the security forces against rioting that would be as effective. Water cannon and CS gas have both proved to be ineffective. I know of no alternative to baton rounds at present.

Mr. Parry

My question No. 27 on the Order Paper is similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). I agree with the points that he made about the killing of innocent children and women, particularly the tragic death of Mrs Nora McCabe, and I fully support any demand in the House for the banning of these bullets.

Mr. Scott

I regret every death that takes place in Northern Ireland. It is worth reminding the House that well over 2,000 people have lost their lives in the course of the troubles over the last 16 to 17 years. I think that it is up to those who complain about the use of baton rounds and who wish to have them removed to come forward with an alternative that would be as good and as effective in protecting the security forces against rioting.