HC Deb 22 April 1971 vol 815 cc1343-5
7. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement of policy concerning Northern Ireland.

12. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement on the current situation in Northern Ireland, so far as Her Majesty's Government is responsible.

Mr. Sharples

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd March and to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in the debate on 6th April.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the alarming rumours circulating about plots to kidnap members of the Armed Services and hold them to ransom, can my hon. Friend assure the House that precautions are being take to protect them and public officials in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Sharples

I can assure my hon. Friend that the necessary precautions are being taken to deal with any threat about which we know.

Mr. Rose

Will the hon. Gentleman make a statement on the efficacy of attempts to find unlicensed arms? Will he also take into consideration the more than 70,000 licensed arms in Northern Ireland and the more than 80 rifle clubs, many of which have been joined by former members of the B Specials and are connected with U.V.F.? Will he look into this matter, which is an equal cause of concern as extremists on the other side?

Mr. Sharples

The Northern Ireland Government have initiated a check with all holders of firearms under certificate in Northern Ireland to see whether it is necessary for them to possess the weapons. The R.U.C. is undertaking these checks.

Mr. Lane

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is very wide public support and admiration for the policy of firmness coupled with restraint under which the Army is carrying out its disagreeable task?

Mr. Sharples

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and entirely agree with what he said.

Mr. Dell

Can the hon. Member say whether the policy embodied in the Industrial Development Bill introduced at Stormont yesterday, which enables the Stormont Government to take equity holding in private industry, has the approval of Her Majesty's Government and whether Stormont will be recommending Her Majesty's Government to do the same thing in development areas in this country?

Mr. Sharples

All that the Stormont Government do in these matters is for the Stormont Government. They have responsibility for the action they take.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will my hon. Friend persuade the Prime Minister to visit Northern Ireland next month, because the Ulster Festival '71 will open next month and its success will help to restore the economy of Northern Ireland to normal and perhaps will help to reduce tension.

Mr. Sharples

I understand that a later Question on this matter is addressed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If my hon. Friend catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, it will be possible for him to raise that point then.

Mr. Kaufman

Can the hon. Gentleman say what progress has been made in tracking down the murderers of the three young soldiers, as the Catholic community, in particular, in Northern Ireland is anxious that the perpetrators of this filthy crime should be discovered?

Mr. Sharples

I cannot report on the progress being made. The hon. Gentleman will understand that this is a matter for the police. However, the whole House shares his sentiments.