Britain's police are to be armed with tear gas guns and grenades to be used against armed criminals or dangerous individuals.

The Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, made the announcement in the House of Commons today 20th May, 1965.

He assured MPs the gas caused only temporary discomfort with no long-term side-effects.

"Non-toxic tear smoke" already used by the police in the Colonies would be stored at 40 police centres in England and Wales and at six in Scotland.

It is the first time British police are being issued with the "non-lethal weapon" - although London's Metropolitan Police and four other forces have been able to obtain supplies from the military in emergency cases.

Gas against "violently insane"

Sir Frank made clear the chemical would be used only "in dealing with armed criminals or violently insane persons in buildings from which they cannot be dislodged without danger or loss of life".

He said the gas would have no long-term effect on people who came into contact with it.

Sir Edward Dodd, the Chief Inspector of Constabularies, told the BBC tear gas would under no circumstances be used for crowd control.

"The Secretary of State has asked chief constables to report to him the circumstances under which weapons are used whenever it is necessary to use them," he said.

He envisaged it would be used only "two or three times a year".

CS gas was developed at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment at Porton in Wiltshire.

It is delivered in a grenade or cartridge and has an immediate effect - victims experience watering eyes and blurred vision which wears off as soon as they leave the area affected.

The idea of allowing issue of tear gas to police was first recommended by a working party in 1962.

For the last 10 years, police chiefs have expressed concern about the vulnerability of their officers and members of the public on rare occasions when criminals barricade themselves in buildings and there is no alternative but to send in armed officers.


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