Water cannons from Northern Ireland can be dispatched to English authorities on a day's notice, according to British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Police are already authorized to use baton rounds and we agreed … that, while they are not currently needed, we now have in place contingency plans for water cannons to be available at 24 hours' notice," Cameron said.
The police of Northern Ireland reportedly have six water cannons available; such devices don’t exist in England, Wales or Scotland.
The use of water cannons on rioters and protesters has long been viewed as controversial, but due to the huge scale of civil disturbancess across England, there appears to be a consensus among the public and politicians of all stripes for their legitimate use.
Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP from Newark and a former army officer, told the BBC: "In Northern Ireland just a few weeks ago, we had very serious riots including the use of firearms, where water cannon and plastic rounds, not lethal weapons, were used without anyone batting an eyelid. I am not saying that is necessarily what we want, but we have got to allow the police to use their powers and, once they have arrested individuals, for the judiciary to be able to punish them.”
Mercer added: "They should have the tools available, and they should use them if the commander on the ground thinks it is necessary. I don't think we have necessarily to mollycoddle Englishmen because we don't mollycoddle Irishmen."
Sir Hugh Orde, the former chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, praised the use of water cannons in defusing public disturbances.
"A water cannon buys you space. It is not a technique you can use in any other real policing environment," he told media.
"They are very heavy pieces of equipment; you need a number of them to be effective."
Even Ken Livingstone, the leftist former mayor of London, has said water cannons can be very effective.
Mike Ritchie, the director of the committee on the administration of justice in Northern Ireland, told The Guardian newspaper: “Water cannon were not really used during the [Irish] Troubles, but they have been used more since and have not really provoked as many complaints. No one has been injured or killed, and they seem to have been less problematic."
Cameron has vowed to stop the rioters and looters whose behavior has shocked the British public. Every officer in England and Wales has had their leave canceled – with an astonishing 16,000 police deployed across London.
Cameron decried the gang mindset among much of Britain’s youth. “When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of a young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things badly wrong with our society,” he lamented.