Tory AMs join opponents and urge Boris to defer water cannon decision

Water cannon during a German demonstration, 2001. Image Wikipedia
Water cannon during a German demonstration, 2001. Image Wikipedia
London Assembly members from all four parties at City Hall have called on Boris Johnson not to spend money on water cannon in the coming financial year.

The Mayor has asked Home Secretary Theresa May for permission to purchase three water cannon for the Met from the German Federal Police.

The vehicles are close to the end of their serviceable life and would need replacing within 2-3 years. If purchased, they’re expected to be ready for use by this summer.

City Hall is currently consulting with Londoners to gauge public support for the proposal.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said the cannon would be “rarely used and rarely seen” but would be a useful, non-lethal addition to the force’s options for dealing with large-scale public disorder.

The Assembly’s Police & Crime committee has questioned the Mayor, senior Met officers and Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, about the plans.

At a meeting of the full Assembly on Friday, AMs from all four parties said they were unconvinced by the case put forward by the Met and have heard no evidence to suggest the decision needs to be taken before a national review into their possible use on the mainland is completed.

Twenty of the twenty five strong Assembly – including four Conservative members – backed a non-binding motion calling on the Mayor “not to incur any expenditure on water cannon in 2014/15.”

The motion was proposed by Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Assembly.

Ms Pidgeon said she was concerned the vehicles would be “inflammatory” and went against the principle of policing by consent.

Tory AM Roger Evans said he’d initially been in favour of water cannon but had struggled to find a case for their purchase in the evidence heard by AMs. He said he’d been left wondering: “If water cannon are the answer, what is the question?”

Labour’s Jennette Arnold suggested the Mayor had been badly advised to support the Met’s request wile colleague Joanne McCartney expressed concern that the Met and Mayor were giving contradictory information about who would have the final say on their use.

The Mayor has suggested he would have a say in the final decision, but the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told AMs that the final say would be his.