HC Deb 25 July 1974 vol 877 cc1797-9
9. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the latest position regarding recruiting for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Since 1st January 1971 the strength of the regular force has risen from 3,809 to 4,450 and the RUC Reserve from 578 to 2,558. During the first six months of 1974 there has been a net increase in strength of 59 in the RUC and 44 in the RUC Reserve. The Police Authority and the Chief Constable are giving priority to a vigorous recruiting campaign.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

These figures are welcome for what they are. Is it not clear that there is still a large amount of untapped voluntary assistance available in Northern Ireland? I welcome the statement that I read in The Times today, that the Secretary of State is considering some form of auxiliary-based force. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend that it should be what I might describe as a neighbourhood-based force and that it should be equipped as effectively as is required to meet whatever security problem it may have to cope with?

Mr. Rees

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question goes beyond the regular forces. Regular forces are basically important if proper policing is to return to the Province, and I am certainly investigating the question of the community as a whole playing a part in the policing of the Province. A number of ideas have been put to me. Indeed, I discussed this matter with people in the street in Londonderry the day before yesterday. One thing is absolutely sure—that to add to the number of people with guns in an unco-ordinated way in Northern Ireland, given the sectarian feelings there, would cause even more trouble to the RUC. Anything that is done must be under the control of the RUC and acceptable to the community as a whole.

Mr. Evelyn King

I am not disputing the Secretary of State's last sentence, but does he accept that the figures are disappointingly small? This question has been raised many times. We have heard talk about a recruiting campaign. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us some details about it? How much expenditure is involved? Is it a national campaign? Will he put his heart into this matter?

Mr. Rees

I have not got the precise figures, but if the hon. Gentleman were living in Northern Ireland he could hardly open a newspaper or watch television without seeing and hearing invitations to join the RUC. The figures, relative to a population of 1½ million people, are very high. The point is that there are unusual circumstances in Northern Ireland. That is why we must look wider, bearing in mind the problems involved for the community as a whole, to help in this situation. I profoundly believe that peace, or dealing with violence, in the Province cannot be achieved or dealt with, first, by an Army from outside and, secondly, by the police. Until the community as a whole are involved we shall not achieve success.

13. Mr. Carson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he would indicate those areas of Belfast where the RUC do not provide a comprehensive police service.

Mr. Orme

Police services are carried out in all areas of Belfast but some functions in the Markets area, the Ardoyne, Unity Flats, the New Lodge area and other parts of West Belfast require Army support.

Mr. Carson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people in my constituency especially in the New Lodge Road area, want to know why they have not seen a policeman in their areas for the past four years? Is he aware that the police are forbidden to go in there except under an Army escort—and that is called a "no-stop" patrol? Is he also aware that the UDR, when stationed at Girdwood, has to slip out through the back door and do a two-mile detour to avoid a certain part of the Antrim Road?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to my constituents, particularly those in the New Lodge Road area, that he will at least try to put in a police force, perhaps supported by security forces, and let the police be seen in that area?

Mr. Orme

This is tied up with my right hon. Friend's previous answer about improving policing in Northern Ireland, not least on both sides of the divide as it exists. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would wish to denigrate in any way the RUC, which operates in the areas he has mentioned in a very courageous manner. It is the Government's intention to see that policing is extended by unarmed police, in future operating throughout Belfast. When this is achieved we shall be moving towards a proper solution in Northern Ireland.

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