HC Deb 26 April 1977 vol 930 cc1021-2
16. Mr. McCusker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the operations of the Special Air Service in South Armagh.

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

The Special Air Service continues to operate with success in South Armagh and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McCusker

Bearing in mind the strategic importance of South Armagh, will the Minister resist any attempt to reduce the strength of the SAS in that area? In order that the specialist skills of the regiment may be deployed in other parts of the Province, what plans, if any, has he to increase the strength of the regiment?

Mr. Brown

Where the SAS operates is a matter for the GOC. I am not pre pared to discuss the details of deployment. Equally, it would not be in the interests of security to discuss the numbers deployed.

Mr. Kilfedder

Even though some members of the SAS may be taught to speak with an Ulster accent, surely that is no answer to the problem presented by the terrorists in Northern Ireland. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the only way to deal with them is to create an anti-terrorist force which will seek out and destroy the bombers and the gun men?

Mr. Brown

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would recognise that all the units of the British Army at present in Northern Ireland represent an anti-terrorist force.

Mr. Powell

I agree that it is appropriate that the Minister should not comment on actual deployment. In view, however, of the proven success of this unit in South Armagh, will he ensure that the Army command is particularly quick to switch this force to other parts of the Province which are threatened in the same way?

Mr. Brown

I am sure that the point made by the right hon. Gentleman will not be lost on the GOC. The SAS will operate wherever it is needed in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that the task of the SAS in Northern Ireland would be rendered much easier if certain politicians ceased making inflammatory speeches in the Province?

Mr. Brown

If my hon. Friend is suggesting that we must seek long and earnestly for a political solution in Northern Ireland, I agree with him.

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