HC Deb 11 March 1971 vol 813 cc574-5
34. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of State for Defence what action soldiers on duty in Northern Ireland are instructed to take when they witness attacks by armed republican elements on civilians; and if these include returning fire where firearms are being used by such terrorists, or where explosives are thrown in public places.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Soldiers are instructed to take all possible steps to protect life and maintain law and order. They use only the minimum force to achieve their immediate objective, but firearms are used when necessary.

Mr. McMaster

Is my hon. Friend aware of the very great shock and distress felt throughout Northern Ireland at the deaths of the three young soldiers last night while off duty? Will he now take all steps to ensure that all known members of the I.R.A. are taken into custody immediately, and that thorough searches for arms are carried out wherever arms are used, because of the very great concern felt by the public at the number of these terrorists who have got away and the number of bodies which have been removed in shooting incidents in recent days?

Mr. Gilmour

Of course I am aware of the very great shock felt throughout Northern Ireland and this country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be making a statement on this matter later today. The rest of the matters raised by my hon. Friend will no doubt be discussed in greater detail later during the debate.