HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1425-6
5. Mr. Clemitson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to withdraw troops from Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.

10. Mr. Wellbeloved

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will set a date for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

Mr. Orme

The number of troops required in Northern Ireland in aid of the civil power is kept under constant review. Her Majesty's Government have no intention of maintaining more troops there than is necessary to help maintain law and order.

Mr. Clemitson

Will my hon. Friend give two assurances—first, that the total number of troops in Northern Ireland will not be increased, and second, that while troops remain in Northern Ireland they will not be used in such a way as to antagonise large sections of the population?

Mr. Orme

On the second point, I can certainly give that assurance. On the first point, I ask my hon. Friend and the House to await the statement that will be made by my right hon. Friend later this afternoon.

Mr. Biffen

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the inhabitants of Belfast or anywhere else in the Province have as much right to expect protection as the citizens of Luton?

Mr. Orme

I fully accept that. It is how this protection is afforded and the manner in which it is carried out that is important.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will my hon. Friend confirm that since 1969 over 1,200 British Service men have been injured in Northern Ireland and over 211 have been killed on duty there? Does not my hon. Friend recognise that since 1969 there has been an escalation of violence? Does not he also realise that in recent elections in Northern Ireland a majority have demonstrated their opposition to the political initiative of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and the Sunning-dale agreement? When will the Govern- ment accept that the only people who can solve the problems of Ireland are the people of Ireland? When will the Government set a date for British disengagement in Northern Ireland and the withdrawal of British troops from the soil of Ireland?

Mr. Orme

My hon. Friend has asked quite a few questions arising out of this subject. The facts and figures that he has given are correct. It is the desire of the Government to withdraw the British Army from Northern Ireland in a proper manner as soon as that is practicable but we do not want to create a situation which would precipitate a civil war on a scale unheard of hitherto. It is on that basis that we are proceeding in the manner which my right hon. Friend will explain to the House later this afternoon.

Mr. Pym

Following the increase in violence in recent days, will the Minister say whether there has been any change in force levels or whether any such change is contemplated in the immediate future?

Mr. Orme

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to await my right hon. Friend's statement. He will be dealing with the matter in some detail.

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