HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc627-8
10. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Minister of State for Defence what new training procedures have been introduced into the Army as a result of security operations in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Blaker

The situation in Northern Ireland has not led to changes in the basic pattern of Army training but it has naturally led to a greater emphasis being placed upon internal security duties. Before being posted there, units undertake intensive training in all aspects of internal security operations and supplementary training courses are provided to meet specialist requirements.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Has my hon. Friend given thought to the possibility that Northern Ireland is a precedent which might be repeated? Should not training procedures be introduced which would turn the Army into something more of a national security force than it is now?

Mr. Blaker

We study in all their aspects any lessons that are to be learned from Northern Ireland. I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend has in mind but it is right to say that the Army's rôle in internal security will continue to be subject to the same principles which have applied in the past—that is, of subordination to the civil power and the principle of minimum force.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that on 16th November last he promised to investigate for me reports that UDR vehicles had been reported flying the Red Hand Flag of Ulster? He promised to reply to me but so far there has been no word. Have investigations been completed?

Mr. Blaker

I have investigated the point which the hon. Member put to me and could find no substantiation for it.

Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

Would not my hon. Friend agree that new techniques have been added to regiments such as my own, which are normally equipped with Chieftain tanks but which have recently been in Ireland on foot? Is it not the case that the techniques of a security rôle are being extended to those who would not normally operate in this way?

Mr. Blaker

I agree about that. One of the remarkable and encouraging features of the performance of our troops in Northern Ireland is that units which were not primarily designed to fulfil an infantry rôle have adapted themselves very well to such a rôle.