HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc619-22
2. Mr. David James

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to improve career prospects in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to obtain recruits from all sections of the community for it.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)

Officers are encouraged to enhance their career prospects by taking university courses, and the new course leading to a Higher National Certificate of Police Studies. Additionally, special career opportunities are offered to university graduates. For higher police training, selected officers attend colleges in Great Britain.

As to the second part of the Question, 11 recruiting officers are engaged full-time to attract recruits from all sections of the community. They keep in touch with all likely sources of recruitment and with community leaders.

Mr. James

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he impress upon those serving in the Royal Ulster Constabulary that they have the most vital and creative rôle to play in the future development of the community? Will he also consider the possibility of setting up area watch committees on the English line, which could possibly reflect the political and religious balance of such a community, in such a way hoping to create a police force which is universally acceptable in the Province?

Mr. Howell

I can assure my hon. Friend that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has a strongly developed sense of community service and is fully aware of its heavy responsibilities in the Northern Ireland community. As to any developments of police work in the future, those will have to be considered in due course.

Mr. Stallard

Does the Minister accept —I am sure that he does—that there is growing concern and a body of opinion in this country which is demanding the withdrawal of troops from the Six Counties, for a whole number of reasons? Will he accept that the only substitute is a police force which is acceptable to both communities? In that vein will he therefore at least study very carefully the only positive and concrete proposals for any replacement of troops contained in the Social Democratic and Labour Party's reply to the Green Paper, in which it outlined some detailed proposals for a police force? Has the hon. Gentleman any views on that, and will he make a statement on the proposals?

Mr. Howell

I accept the hon. Member's diagnosis. Obviously all ideas for restoring normal police services to all sections of the community in the future will have to be studied.

Rev. Ian Paisley

When the Minister is conducting the recruiting campaign for members for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, will he bear in mind the deplorable state of many of the police stations in Northern Ireland, especially the police station in my constituency at Larne, and that at Lisburn, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux)? Will he make an announcement today about positive steps to improve the amenities of the police in their police stations?

Mr. Howell

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a very important matter. We are anxious to see that all needs in the way of equipment and facilities are provided for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and every effort is made to do just that.

11. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what awards for gallantry have been won by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary since January 1968.

Mr. David Howell

One George Medal, seven British Empire Medals for gallantry and two Queen's Commendations for brave conduct.

Further recommendations are under consideration.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

That is indeed a remarkable record of bravery. Does not my hon. Friend agree that the whole of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has shown the greatest devotion to duty in the face of a wave of violence never before seen in the United Kingdom? Does not he think that the members of the RUC deserve some kind of recognition, and will he consider the award to them of the General Service Medal which our troops already receive?

Mr. Howell

I gladly agree with my hon. Friend's commendation of the bravery and devotion to service of the RUC. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has told the House that he is not convinced that there should be a general award to the RUC in addition to the individual awards that have been and will continue to be made for police gallantry and distinguished service. I think that is the right decision.

Mr. McNamara

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the best way of recognising the work done by the force, instead of singling out individuals, would be to pay the members of the force additional payments such as are made to the fire service and other forces in Northern Ireland for the extra work they do, and not to make them into another sacrificial lamb for the Government's pay and incomes freeze?

Mr. Howell

This matter has been raised, but it is for the decision of the police authority.

Mr. Maginnis

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that where bravery is shown by any member of the RUC it should be recognised, and that the morale of the force is an important factor to take into account?

Mr. Howell

I certainly agree with that, and it is reflected in the awards that have been made and will be taken into consideration in future recommendations.

15. Mr. Goodhart

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

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Mills)

This is a matter which is constantly kept under review by the Police Authority. Over 1,400 men and women have been recruited to the RUC during the last three years, and since its establishment in 1970 there have been over 2,700 recruits to the Reserve.

Mr. Goodhart

As the events of the last few hours have underlined the fact that there is a desperate need for more policemen, will my hon. Friend consider reducing the minimum height requirement for new recruits from 5 ft. 8 ins.? At this moment is it not ridiculous to insist on a height requirement which would lead to rejection on physical grounds of at least one member of the English football eleven and one member of the All Blacks international side.

Mr. Mills

I am sure that the Police Authority will note what my hon. Friend has said. This may be one way of helping in the matter. I believe the important thing is by advertising, through the recruiting officers and by our supporting the RUC, to get the recruits which are so desperately needed.

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