HC Deb 16 November 1972 vol 846 cc585-6
3. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the total number of civilian deaths in Northern Ireland since 25th March, 1972; and how many of these have been women and children.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. van Straubenzee)

237, between 25th March and 16th November, 1972, including 19 women and 23 children under 16.

Mr. McMaster

Does the Minister of State appreciate that that is a very much higher casualty rate than before the political initiative in March? Will my hon. Friend give first priority to tougher security measures, which are necessary to reduce the terrible toll of death and injury.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is undeniable that there is a terrible toll of death and injury, but the inference in my hon. Friend's question seems to be that the toll is in some way due to the action of the Government. That I must firmly question and refute. My hon. Friend will know that very firm action is being taken and I absolutely pledge that that will continue.

Mr. Stallard

Is the Minister of State aware that there is a great deal of con- cern about the erection of what are called car-bomb preventive barriers? The Chief of the Belfast Fire Brigade said this morning that the barriers may prove to be a fire risk, and will possibly increase rather than decrease the number of casualities. Will the hon. Gentleman look again at these preventive barriers?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The problem of these barriers is being looked at by the Army. Any question of the law being taken into individual hands, by whoever it may be, is strongly to be deprecated.