HC Deb 25 July 1974 vol 877 cc1792-3
3. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many detainees he has released from Long Kesh since Tuesday 9th July.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Since 9th July 1974, I have released 14 detainees from Her Majesty's Prison, the Maze. In the same period 18 were released by the commissioners.

Mr. Dalyell

Why so few?

Mr. Rees

There are a number of factors to take into account. Government policy is to release detainees in accordance with the security position. I say to my hon. Friend that if, this week, the flight of an aeroplane with over 80 people in it had led to that number of deaths, it would have made it extremely difficult to continue with the present policy. There will be further releases. When we consider the number of releases involved in a fortnight it will be seen that it would not be long, on an arithmetical basis and if there were a ceasefire, before the Maze could be emptied. Of course, it is not a one-way process.

Mr. Molyneaux

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will investigate the serious allegations made about the ill-treatment of prisoners last weekend in Long Kesh?

Mr. Rees

I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman in the Chamber, because he was in the aeroplane which, the other morning, might well have blown up. I gave authority on Friday evening, as a result of Protestant remand prisoners and others reallocating themselves in the Maze, for the governor to offer to consider their complaints. It was many hours later that the Army, which had no rôle other than to be asked in, entered the Maze. Prisoners were hurt and soldiers were hurt. The whole matter is being investigated by the RUC.

Mr. Thorne

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to tell us how many additional people have been interned since the same date? In view of the growing awareness of the position in Northern Ireland and in Southern Ireland will he say whether the whole problem of internment is closely related to the violence and other factors in Northern Ireland? Is he prepared yet again to scrutinise the Government's policy and to end internment within the next few days?

Mr. Rees

I could not advise the policy of turning 600 people out on to the streets in the next few days. I believe that the result would be bloodshed in Northern Ireland. It is easier said than done. However, I want to end detention without trial. In the period to which my hon. Friend refers I have signed ICOs for two people. They were not signed for political reasons but because of acts that they had committed. If those acts were to cease and killing and shooting were to end, the job of ending detention without trial or with some sort of trial would be very much quicker.

Mr. Carson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us a breakdown from 9th July of the number of IRA members and the number of Loyalists who have been released from Long Kesh?

Mr. Rees

No, I could not do so without notice. When we consider the proportions in Long Kesh it will be seen that I have released people from both communities.

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