HC Deb 22 February 1972 vol 831 cc1102-4
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I regret to have to inform the House that at 12.40 p.m. an explosion occurred in the Headquarters Officers' Mess of the 16th Parachute Brigade at Aldershot. Seven people were killed—one officer, one man and five women on the staff—and at least 13 are injured—nine officers, one staff sergeant and three further civilians of the mess staff. The police are investigating with the utmost urgency. In the meantime I have no further details. I am sure that the House will unite in condemning this outrage and in expressing sympathy with the relatives of those killed and all those injured.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

We on this side of the House of course wish to associate ourselves with the right hon. Gentleman in expressing deep sympathy for the relatives of those who have been killed at Aldershot. Is he aware that the Kilburn Battalion of the Provisional I.R.A. has, according to Press tapes, accepted responsibility for this outrage? Can any useful purpose be served in, as so frequently happens, pursuing a policy of revenge which produces seven innocent victims of the tragedy of Northern Ireland?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of the injured are seriously injured and whether there is any danger to life? Is he in touch with his right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, and will he inquire of him what security measures were taken with regard to the 16th Parachute Brigade, which had already been publicly threatened by the Provisional I.R.A.? Will he now ask his right hon. and noble Friend to undertake a review of security measures at Army bases throughout the United Kingdom, especially for the protection of civilian employees as well as military men?

Finally, we on this side of the House wish to say that this is an obscene outrage and one which raises the most serious questions for law and order on this side of the Irish Channel.

Mr. Maudling

I welcome very much what the hon. Lady has said. I am afraid that I cannot give any more details at the moment. It happened only a very short time ago. All investigations are being pursued as rapidly as possible. I saw the report on the tape. I have no doubt that this is one of the leads that the police will be following.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at this stage the House can do little else but register its sense of horror and express its sympathy to the dependants of those who have lost their lives and those who are injured? While we have yet to establish the source of this outrage, if the intention of those who perpetrated this ghastly act was to achieve any political result surely the moral is that nothing is less likely to achieve a peaceful solution than tactics of this sort?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Critchley

The whole House will share the feeling of anger and sorrow at this wanton act of murder, in which seven of my constituents have died, five of them women, and 13 have been injured. Has my right hon. Friend seen a claim that the Official I.R.A. has said that it was responsible? Will he please assure us that he will spare no effort to apprehend those responsible for this foul outrage?

Mr. Maudling

All the resources of the law in this country are already engaged in trapping the miscreants.

Mr. Concannon

On behalf of all right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House and, of course, all members of the Labour Party, may I register my disgust and anger at this senseless outrage? Further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any security plans have been made for infantry barracks in this country, in view of the fact that, following what has been termed "Bloody Sunday", threats were made by certain people that this kind of action would take place? Have any security precautions been taken in these barracks, especially with regard to the protection of married quarters?

Mr. Maudling

We were well aware of the threats made about outrages of this kind. I do not think I should go further into these matters at this stage.