HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc634-6
14. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the latest measures taken to combat terrorism.

Mr. David Howell

So long as violence and terrorism continues, one cannot of course be satisfied. But my hon. Friend might like to know that in January, as a result of arrests made by the security forces, over 100 men have been charged with offences, including 16 charged with 10 murders, and three charged with attempted murders. So far this month, seven known Protestant extremists and 16 known IRA men have been arrested. Eighty-six firearms, 6,000 rounds of ammunition, and over one ton of explosives have been found by the security forces in both Protestant and Catholic areas since the beginning of the year. I think that is a very good record.

Mr. Kilfedder

It goes without saying that we have only the greatest praise for the gallantry and courage of the security forces in Northern Ireland in difficult circumstances.

First, is my hon. Friend considering increasing the number of troops in Northern Ireland? Secondly, will he consider the establishment of local platoons of the UDR to operate locally? Thirdly, will he go into the question of establishing a women's unit of the Ulster Defence Regiment?

Mr. Howell

Force levels in Northern Ireland are kept under constant review in the light of the security situation at any one time. The two questions relating to the disposition of the UDR are matters for my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence.

Rev. Ian Paisley

In view of the violence that occurred in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland yesterday, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind the need for the tightening of security around police stations so that the people who are now attacking the Royal Ulster Constabulary cannot get within yards of the police stations to carry out their attacks? Will he again look into the question of curfews and searches? Will he assure the House that when shooting occurs in an area and the security forces believe that those carrying out the shooting are obtaining sanctuary in that area, it will be sealed off, no one will be allowed to move out or in, and a thorough search will be made so that, by a process of elimination, the people committing the murders may be found?

Mr. Ernest G. Perry

In all areas?

Rev. Ian Paisley

In all areas.

Mr. Perry

The hon. Gentleman did not say that.

Mr. Howell

The protection of police stations is a matter which is very much in our minds. Considerable provisions are made for the security of police stations. If there is room for improvement—we are always looking for it—we will carry it out.

As for curfews and like matters, there are considerable difficulties, the most obvious of which would be the enormous tying up of the security forces and possibly great problems about enforcement. Various matters of this kind are under review from time to time.

The ways in which the security forces operate have to be balanced against the conditions met on the ground. On the whole, the security forces carry out their searches and duties in the way that they believe will be most effective. I think that the figures that I have given the House show that they are effective.

Mr. Heffer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most ordinary British people find it utterly impossible to understand the madness that is going on in Northern Ireland at present and that they are fast coming to the view that sooner or later the Government, on behalf of the overwhelming majority of people, will have to tell the people of Northern Ireland that if they continue in this way we shall have to withdraw our troops and leave them to solve the problem themselves? It is not right that ordinary British men in the Forces are being shot down by mad dogs on both sides of this argument.

Mr. Howell

I am sure that many people outside this House and in Northern Ireland will listen to the sentiments which the hon. Gentleman has expressed. While I do not agree with them, I understand why his feelings should be that way.

17. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if and when he intends to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Diplock Report.

Mr. Whitelaw

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my statement on 20th December, in which I said that the Government accepted in principle the recommendations of the Diplock Commission and would bring forward for consideration legislation to give effect to them.

Mr. McNamara

Will the right hon. Gentleman state what discussions he has had with various professional bodies in Northern Ireland about the recommendations of the Diplock Report, many parts of which are subject to a great deal of criticism by members of the professions? Can he also give some indication to the House when he expects the legislation to come forward—if it is to come forward?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have said that legislation will come forward as soon as possible. I have not had discussions with the professional bodies, but I should be only too pleased to receive any representations or deputations they may like to send me upon them.

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