HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc899-900

Q12. Mr. Mather asked the Prime Minister whether he will now consider a bar to the General Service Medal for troops serving in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister

With permission. Mr. Speaker, I should now like to answer Question No. 12.

In recognition of the services of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, The Queen has approved proposals for the grant of the General Service Medal and clasp for specified service in the province. Details of these proposals are set out in a Command Paper which I am presenting to Parliament today. Copies of the Command Paper are available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Mather

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this news will be received with widespread satisfaction as justice being done to the rôle of the troops in Northern Ireland? Is he further aware that this is not just a campaign medal: this is a General Service Medal and is "service" in its truest sense.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I thought it right to advise Her Majesty that that was the position.

Mr. Cronin

Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he is contemplating any more direct practical measures to alleviate hardship on the troops in Northern Ireland, bearing in mind not only the danger and discomfort involved but the intolerable psychological conditions under which they are working?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and the General Officer Commanding have always had these matters under review, but in fighting gunmen and bombers in a situation of this kind the conditions are bound to be dangerous and hazardous.

Mr. McMaster

Is the Prime Minister aware that although this move will be welcomed by everybody throughout the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, we would also welcome it if he were to consult with the Northern Ireland Government about similarly recognising gallant service in the R.U.C., the fire brigade and other defence services, which are also under attack in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister

The members of the Forces' Fire Services and the Ministry of Defence police are eligible, but the rest of the police officers in Northern Ireland will continue, as before, to qualify for police awards for gallantry or distinguished service.