HC Deb 16 November 1972 vol 846 cc587-9
5. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussion he has had with the head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary about reorganising the force in such a way as to make it more able to take back responsibility for internal security in Northern Ireland.

Mr. David Howell

My right hon. Friend's discussions with the chief constable and the police authority on the future internal security role of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have shown that the real need is not a reorganisation of the force but a steady build up of its effective strength. This is being achieved.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

My hon. Friend will no doubt remember my right hon. Friend's statement in the debate on Monday that the establishment of the force was to be 5,000 in 1975. The establishment of the force is now just over 4,000, at a time when crime has never been more prevalent and when detection rates are ever lower. We have the chief constable's report, and there is no doubt that the RUC—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is Question Time. What is the hon. Member's question?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I am leading up to the point I want to make, Mr. Speaker. In those circumstances, is my hon. Friend satisfied that this figure of 5,000 by 1st April, 1975—three years away—is credible?

Mr. Howell

My hon. Friend should distinguish between establishment and actual success in recruiting. We would, of course, like to go beyond an establishment of 5,000, but there is no point in raising the establishment to that figure until we have recruited manpower to the existing establishment level. At the moment recruiting has taken an encouraging up-turn, but we want to move forward. If we are successful we shall be able to raise the establishment figure but, as I say, to do so would be pointless until we get the necessary manpower.

Mr. McMaster

Is the Minister of State aware that with the present increase in violence in Northern Ireland, the growth of such bodies as the UDA, and with really a war-time situation, many people would be willing to help in the formation of civil defence corps? Could not these be enlisted by the Army to protect people from bombings and shootings by night in Belfast?

Mr. Howell

Those who are willing to help have the UDR to join, if they so wish, or they can apply, if they have the necessary qualifications, to join the police or the police reserve, which are recognised official security forces and the forces of law and order. They can join these if they so wish.

Mr. McNamara

The Minister of State has just said that people can join the UDR and other organisations. Will he now state what on Monday night his hon. Friend was not prepared to state, which is that membership of the UDA is not compatible with membership of the UDR or any other recognised security force in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Howell

The Government's view is quite clear. It is that the first loyalty of members of the UDR is to the security forces, and to the Army. That has been clearly said.

7. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he proposes to take to increase recruiting for the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Mr. Peter Mills

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) on 15th November.

Mr. Goodhart

Does my hon. Friend recognise that one of the most disturbing factors in the security situation in Northern Ireland is the low state of morale in the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and that this is bound to be an inhibiting factor in getting the recruitment that we all want?

Mr. Mills

While not agreeing entirely with my hon. Friend, the problems over there and the vulnerability of the police make recruitment extremely difficult. That must mean that we should give every encouragement to them that we possibly can, and so encourage the further recruitment that we are seeking.