HC Deb 10 February 1977 vol 925 cc1649-50
15. Mr. John Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the work of the Community Relations Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Mr. Dunn

I know from the Chief Constable that the branch is engaged in a wide and varied programme of activity designed to advance understanding between the police and the public and to promote reconciliation in the community. The weekend sessions attended by people from both sides of the community have established a most useful dialogue, and I draw particular encouragement from the branch's work in organising youth clubs and other productive pursuits. For young people the branch makes a very valuable contribution to the establishment of trust and understanding across the sectarian divide. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication of the Community Relations Branch officers and to express my appreciation to them.

Mr. Ellis

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging reply, and I appreciate the work of all concerned. Is the work of the Community Relations Branch directed at any particular section of the community?

Mr. Dunn

No. The branch directs its efforts to the whole community. Its aim is to break down sectarian barriers and to promote mutual understanding. Particular emphasis is always placed on the work with young people. I cannot speak too highly of the success already achieved.

Mr. Miscampbeil

I appreciate the Minister's optimistic reply, but will he encourage all parties in Northern Ireland to support the RUC and recruitment to it?

Mr. Dunn

I do so, I will always continue to do so and I have already done so.

Mr. McCusker

Does not the Minister agree that, at a time when police man- power is at a premium, this work could be passed on to someone else to undertake and the police released to get on with defeating terrorism?

Mr. Dunn

There are two points of view on this matter. I believe that, for the time being, the police are the best people to undertake this work. What we are trying to do is create a relationship between the police and the community. I hope that at a later stage further developments will be possible.

Mr. Kilfedder

The Minister and his colleagues frequently refer to "the two parts of Northern Ireland". Will he make it clear that the only division in Northern Ireland among the people is between those who are terrorists and those who are law-abiding?

Mr. Dunn

I wish that that were the only distinction—it would be much easier to work—but the hon. Gentleman will know that that is not absolutely true.

Mr. Speaker

Questions to the Prime Minister.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman be kind enough to wait until the end of Prime Minister's Question Time?

Mr. Paisley

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.