4. Mr. Wm. Ross
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will pay a special allowance to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the hardship caused to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with regard to the premiums which they are charged for life assurance? Is he prepared to treat 1423 them on the same basis as members of the Royal Air Force on flying duties?
§ Mr. Orme
I should need notice of that question. However, I met the Police Federation, representing the RUC, last week, when Mr. Stanage and his colleagues dealt with this type of problem, and in particular the pay problem. I advised him and his federation on the way in which they might pursue this matter.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the members of the RUC are doing their work in very grave circumstances? Do not they deserve special consideration? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that they were informed by the previous administration that it was phase 3 which was holding up the consideration of the case? Will he confirm that this is still so under the present administration?
§ Mr. Orme
I discussed this very point with the Police Federation and I recommended that it should pursue this matter and make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about the position if there is a special case to justify it. I fully understand the strength of the RUC case. But this is basically a trade union matter. I have advised the members of the RUC of the correct manner in which they may pursue it.
§ 9. Mr. Norman Fowler
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the present strength of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; how this figure compares with the figure at the comparable date in 1973, 1972 and 1971; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Orme
The strength of the RUC on 31st March 1974 was 4,435. On 31st March in 1971, 1972 and 1973, respectively, the strength was 3,891, 4,110 and 4,285. In addition, 323 officers are at present serving full-time in the RUC Reserve. Every effort is being made by the Police Authority, the Chief Constable and Her Majesty's Government to encourage further recruitment from all sections of the community.
§ Mr. Fowler
I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he say whether the proportion of Roman Catholics recruited over that period has risen or fallen? Does he agree that few aims of policy are more important today than that a strong civil 1424 police force should be established in Ulster?
§ Mr. Orme
Over the period, the recruitment of Roman Catholics rose and then fell. I am sorry to tell the House that the figure is now only about 8 per cent. In this regard, one would hope that when the Sunningdale agreement is concluded it will play a part in bringing all sections of the community into the police force.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Has the absence of a public inquiry into the shooting of two British soldiers in civilian clothes by members of the RUC had an effect on the decline in recruitment to the RUC?
§ 20. Mr. Kilfedder
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been murdered or wounded during the past five years.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Is the Minister aware that the police are gravely concerned that they are forced by regulations to carry revolvers in their holsters under their police tunics, which have four buttons, thereby putting them in a situation of grave disadvantage when they are attacked by terrorists or when they go to the aid of others who are so attacked? Will the hon. Gentleman consider allowing the police to wear their revolvers outside their tunics, even if that will mean giving up the impression that the police are an unarmed force, thereby annoying some Republicans?
§ Mr. Orme
That is not a very helpful question. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has put this matter to the Chief Constable. During the meetings which my right hon. Friend and I had with the Chief Constable and his officers, and in the course of the meeting which I had last week with the Police Federation, this issue was never raised.