HC Deb 03 August 1972 vol 842 cc942-4
10. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will set up an advisory Committee on the police in Northern Ireland, to review the rôle of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the light of events in Ulster since 3rd October, 1969.

Mr. David Howell

The rôle of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is still in accord with the principles recommended by the Advisory Committee on Police in Northern Ireland. The practical application of these principles is a matter for the police authority and the chief constable.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I am rather disappointed with that answer, because the sooner the police can take back responsibility for law and order in Northern Ireland from the Army the sooner Northern Ireland is likely to return to normality. It follows that the Royal Ulster Constabulary of its present size and type is not capable of performing that task. As the return to police control is a matter of top priority, in the same way as security is a matter of top priority, we cannot sit back and leave this matter without an urgent re-appraisal.

Mr. Howell

That may be so, but it does not follow that we need an advisory committee on this matter. In my view, we do not. In the last three years events and the lessons learned have proved the need to evaluate the tasks of the RUC. This evaluation is now going on. I believe that there is no need for an advisory committee of the type my hon. Friend suggests. My right hon. Friend is in close touch with the police authority and the chief constable about these matters.

Mr. Foley

What task is being given to the RUC in the former no-go areas of the Bogside, the Creggan, Andersonstown and the Ardoyne? When does the hon. Gentleman foresee that the RUC will be able to patrol these areas again, as they did before events of recent years?

Mr. Howell

This raises long-term questions. The RUC is in the no-go area and plans are being developed with a view, which we have stated, of restoring normal services, including police services, to those areas as soon as possible.

Mr. Pounder

Will my hon. Friend give sympathetic consideration to the position of members of the RUC Reserve and, indeed, of any members of the part-time security forces who have been called up on mobilisation, to ensure that their employment will not be prejudiced whey the period of emergency is over? Will their jobs be kept for them?

Mr. Howell

I will consider that point sympathetically.

Mr. McNamara

Reverting to the answer which the Under-Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), what does the Under-Secretary mean by "normal police services"? This was the start of the trouble in the Bogside in 1968 and 1969. Armed police are back in the Bogside. The auxiliary police are viewed with grave suspicion. What discussions is it intended to have with the leaders of the community in no-go areas about adequate and proper policing and not "normal policing" as it was before they became no-go areas?

Mr. Howell

It must be recognised that it is too soon to be dogmatic and precise about the final outcome. Discussions are now going on. All reasonable people in the whole community will want to give the discussions a chance so that sensible and practical arrangements can be developed.

Mr. Fowler

Does my hon. Friend agree that the standards of the RUC are exceptionally high and always have been? Has not the problem with the RUC always been undermanning? How is the recruiting policy for the RUC going?

Mr. Howell

I accept what my hon. Friend says about the standards of the RUC. Of course that is right. We have put as much effort as possible into our recruitment policy, and recruitment is proceeding. It is not always as good as we would wish, but it is proceeding satisfactorily.