HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1432-3
12. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is in a position to announce the result of the investigation into procedures following the accidental shooting of two soldiers in County Armagh by patrols of the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the night of 19th March; and if he will make a statement.

15. Mr. McCusker

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he has taken, since the shooting incidents at Shaw's Lake, to ensure adequate liaison and communication between the various branches of the security forces.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Procedures have been reviewed and measures introduced to try to prevent a similar accident in the future. For security reasons I cannot give details.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, but will he say whether there is any question of the Army or police being responsible for movement of troops in and around an area? Who is responsible? Did the troops involved in the incident return any of the fire from the police? Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the Provisional IRA created the confusion that resulted in the incident?

Mr. Rees

The IRA did not create the confusion. Because of the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions I do not think that I should answer the hon. Gentleman's question. On the wider issue, although it would be wrong to talk about procedures, I will say that there are a large number of administrative movements, with 15,000-plus troops in the Province. In the incident in question people were coming off leave. There are other administrative movements, of supplies and so on, which should be considered, and there is the operational side. The RUC and the Army have looked afresh at the matter and have assured me that they have tightened the rules.

Mr. McCusker

I fully accept the explanation that the right hon. Gentleman gave the House about the incident. I in no way criticise the security forces. However, will the right hon. Gentleman publicly acknowledge that I have given him other examples of a breakdown in liaison? How can he reconcile them with an answer, given me by his hon. Friend the Minister of State, that there is no need for standardisation between the Army and police patrols on details of operating practice, when we are faced with this sort of situation?

Mr. Rees

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman fully accepts what I said. He has sent me examples of breakdown in liaison, which I shall examine. I have looked most carefully at the matter, with advice from those trained to do the job. As a politician, I am not trained in that respect. My job is to pick the brains of those who are. They assure me that because of the different operating methods of the RUC and the Army their decision is correct.

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