'SmartWater' ink

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
James Cleverly
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Would you consider using 'SmartWater' ink during public order disturbances to allow offenders to be more easily traced and convicted?

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for 'SmartWater' ink

Answer for 'SmartWater' ink

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes.  A characteristically brainy idea, James.  I would be in favour of using SmartWater.  The police and the Home Office are looking for a role for SmartWater in identifying people involved in incidents of disorder.


James Cleverly AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  It is a statement of public record that there is a mixed view across the Assembly about the use of certain tools in the public disorder arsenal.  However, what I was very keen for ‑ however we move forward or however the Government decides to move forward with regard to water cannon ‑ was for us to recognise, as you have done, that any procedure or piece of equipment can only be one part of a portfolio of solutions to public order.


I was very struck by the fact that in August 2011 when we had the widespread civil disorder, it really started to calm down when people started being arrested.  I am very keen that as well as looking at ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Jennette had it right earlier on, yes.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  No.  The police needed to do their job and arrest them.


James Cleverly AM:  Yes, indeed.  Thank you, Jennette.  I am very keen that as well as using the immediate tools to either calm, disperse or contain, that actually the ability for the police to quickly, and very close to the scene and time of the incident, arrest people, is very, very important.  Will you commit to not just this but perhaps a broader review of the arsenal of capabilities in public order policing to run in parallel with whatever work is going on with water cannon?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  We are certainly looking at this SmartWater traceable liquids idea.  One of the problems is that if you squirt lots of SmartWater at a crowd and somebody gets drenched in SmartWater, the risk is that they will go off and embrace their tearful loved ones or whatever and then everybody will be contaminated.  There will be SmartWater all over the place.  SmartWater gets progressively dumber because the forensics become very difficult.  You cannot really tell who has been at the incident.


James Cleverly AM:  Indeed.  Mr Mayor, at no point is anyone claiming that any solution comes without practical difficulties or implementation issues.  I am just very conscious that public bodies ‑ this is not a particular criticism of the police ‑ have a habit of latching on to what they perceive to be a knight‑in‑shining‑armour solution to a problem.  I just want to make sure that whilst we investigate further the decision about water cannon, a decision which ‑ you are completely right ‑ is in your gift as Mayor of London, we do not miss the opportunities to also look at other capabilities which may sit very comfortably and work in parallel with those, so we have a spectrum of capabilities from the very subtle and non‑intrusive through to the much more forceful if that is what is needed.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  As I have said, we are interested in the potential of SmartWater.  Whether it is a replacement for water emitted with greater pressure, which is what the water cannon would do, I do not know, but they are studying it.


James Cleverly AM:  Or allied to it, not necessarily replace it.  I am completely comfortable with it.  You make a decision and, whilst you might not agree, we have had a debate and you have outlined a way forward.  I completely understand and respect that.  What I am suggesting is that we look at things which may be used in parallel.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, absolutely.  SmartWater is being used now and it is being very effective, actually, in catching burglars.  It is a fantastic thing.


James Cleverly AM:  Thank you.


Darren Johnson AM (Chair):  Thank you very much.