HC Deb 28 November 1974 vol 882 cc609-11
10. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the net increase in the strength of the regular and reserve Royal Ulster Constabulary, respectively, in the present year to the latest available date.

12. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the progress which is being made in strengthening the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

18. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the expansion of the RUC Reserve.

Mr. Moyle

Between 1st January and 19th November of the present year, the net increase in the strength of the RUC was 127, of whom 45 were women; the net increase in the part-time reserve was 574, of whom 125 were women; and the net increase in the full-time reserve was 196, of whom 8 were women.

Between 2nd September—when my right hon. Friend announced the new plan for the extension of policing in Northern Ireland—and 25th November, 3,483 applications to join the RUC Reserve were received. The applications are being processed as quickly as possible and 986 recruits have been accepted so far.

Mr. Powell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been and still continues to be a marked improvement in the morale of the RUC, and that this is not unconnected with the increase in strength and with the recent initiative to which the hon. Gentleman referred? Does he recognise that there is still a very long way indeed to go before the strength either of the regular or of the reserve RUC can be regarded as in any sense adequate?

Mr. Moyle

My right hon. Friend and I would regard policing as the key to the situation in Northern Ireland. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his favourable remarks about the morale of the RUC, which, as a result of visiting the RUC in a number of its units recently, I endorse. We have increased the establishment both of the RUC and of the RUC Reserve, but there is a long way to go in recruiting.

Mr. Gow

Will the hon. Gentleman say what is the present establishment for the RUC, and how far short of that establishment are the figures he has just given the House?

Mr. Moyle

The Royal Ulster Constabulary establishment, which was increased on 2nd September 1974 as a result of the announcement by my right hon. Friend, to which I have referred is now 6,500. The total strength of the RUC, including women, up to 19th November 1974 is 4,518.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is a fact that in the police reserve no applicant can be considered if he is aged over 57 years? Will he also confirm that if a person has already been accepted into the force he can serve until he is 60? Is the hon. Gentleman not prepared to raise the age limit for recruitment to the police reserve to 60?

Mr. Moyle

It is a question of making the best use of available manpower. We have to bear in mind that after assimilation and some form of training, someone aged 57 would not be able to give a substantial period of service to the reserve. But I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Mahon

I can give testimony to the excellent work of the RUC. Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that both communities are represented in this valuable force? Can he tell the House, or give any encouragement to the supposition, that members of the Roman Catholic population of Northern Ireland are recruited to the same extent as others in the Province?

Mr. Moyle

I entirely agree with the statement of principle made by my hon. Friend but I regret to say that although we do not keep figures regarding recruitment from the various communities in Northern Ireland we are very disappointed at the response of the Roman Catholic population. We understand their difficulties, of course. As far as we are concerned there are no obstacles in the way of Roman Catholics joining the force.

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