§ Mr. Sedgemore
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture in respect of the use of plastic bullets for riot control. 
§ Mr. Ingram
[holding answer 28 January 1999]: Plastic baton rounds are used by the police and Army in Northern Ireland only where life or property is at risk, and provide a means by which police officers and soldiers can protect themselves when under attack. Ideally, it would not be necessary to use them: if there were no violent disorder then there would be no requirement to deploy plastic baton rounds.
The nature and scale of public order situations which can arise in Northern Ireland and the threat of terrorist attack often prevent the security forces from attempting to control rioters at close quarters. Plastic baton rounds have allowed the police and the Army to keep a distance between themselves and other lethal missiles. Alternatives methods of riot control have been employed and considered but have generally proved less effective in Northern Ireland conditions.435W
While the Government acknowledge that the use of plastic baton rounds give rise to considerable controversy, no-one has yet been able to suggest a viable alternative which meets the operational needs of the security forces.