HC Deb 26 November 1974 vol 882 cc218-9
4. Mr. Woodall

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many British Army deserters with service in Northern Ireland are domiciled in Sweden.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Robert C. Brown)

Three soldiers, who are recorded as illegal absentees and who have served in Northern Ireland since 1969, are believed to be in Sweden.

Mr. Woodall

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he not agree that it is disgraceful that the British Broadcasting Corporation might encourage would-be deserters by its extraordinary highlighting of this subject?

Mr. Brown

Although it was certainly very much out of proportion for the BBC to devote a "Midweek" programme to such a very small topic, I doubt very much whether anyone thinking of desertion would have found the prospect of deserting to Sweden attractive as a result of the programme.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Does the Under-Secretary agree with me that it is a little unedifying for the people of Britain to rush in with the measures which were announced by the Government yesterday, and which I fully support, because 16 or 18 civilians were killed in Birmingham when they do not do so when more than 250 British soldiers have been killed in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Brown

That is another question. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman cares to table a Question on that subject, he will receive an answer.