HC Deb 17 April 1975 vol 890 cc641-3
4. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the co-operation of foreign Governments in preventing the illegal entry of weapons, ammunition and explosives into Northern Ireland.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

So long as any illegal weapons and explosives reach Northern Ireland from outside, I cannot be wholly satisfied with the situation.

Mr. Gow

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House, according to the evidence in his possession, which countries the ammunition, explosives and weapons are coming from and what representations the Government have made to the countries from which they are coming?

Mr. Rees

There are many views about the country of origin of the arms. There is a large number of spare arms around in Middle Eastern areas. In answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross), I said that during 1974 2,112 lb. of commercial explosive made in the Irish Republic was found in the North, and 243 detonators. I get a great deal of co-operation from the Government of the South in this respect. Arms come into Northern Ireland with money provided in all parts of the world. If the money could be stopped. that would do a great deal of good to Northern Ireland. Many people think that the money is being contributed for respectable purposes. but it is being provided to kill.

Mr. Mikardo

As it is known that some of the arms used against British soldiers in Northern Ireland have come from Libya, will my right hon. Friend tell my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to ensure that if we sell any arms to Libya they are not used against British soldiers and British interests?

Mr. Rees

It would add a new dimension if we had submarines on Lough Neagh, but I shall make sure that my hon. Friend's view is passed on.

Mr. Budgen

What representations have been made to the American authorities about the money which is collected in America for fighting in Northern Ireland? What replies and assurances has the right hon. Gentleman received from the United States Government?

Mr. Rees

The matter is, of course, not my basic responsibility. The money comes from all parts of North America. In many respects, both sides in Northern Ireland get help from North America as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is not unaware of the point that the hon. Gentleman has made.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it within the recollection of the Department that last April I put forward certain circumstantial suggestions that a good deal of money was coming from the city of Toronto? Can anything be said about the liaison with the Canadian Government on this difficult and complex matter?

Mr. Rees

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who is present, has made representations on all these issues, and the authorities are aware of the problem involved. What I was trying to indicate just now was that many people think they are contributing to the care and sustenance of innocent people, whereas the money is going into the provision of arms.