HC Deb 21 July 1977 vol 935 cc1824-5
2. Mr. Molyneaux

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

4. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Roy Mason)

Both Republican and Loyalist terrorist groups are being brought under growing pressure by the effectiveness and vigilance of the security forces. Terrorist attacks are still being made from time to time, especially on the security forces and against property, but these must not be allowed to mask the very real improvements of recent months. So far this year nearly 750 people have been charged with terrorist crimes, including over 140 with murder and attempted murder and over 260 for firearms and explosives offences.

Mr. Molyneaux

Bearing in mind the IRA habit of switching to new tactics, will the Secretary of State assure the House that during the period when Parliament is in recess there will be flexibility in response to such changes in tactics?

Mr. Mason

I can assure the hon. Gentleman on that score. We are, of course, aware of the methods that the Provisional IRA particularly has used in the past and we know how it tends to switch targets. At the moment it appears to be concentrating particularly on pinpointing members of the security forces. I am under no illusions. I do not allow myself to be complacent at all. During the course of this year we are determined to make substantial inroads into terrorist activity in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Farr

While recognising what the Secretary of State has said, may I ask him to make a statement about the non-payments of rates in certain areas? Is that improving, and are we nearing a situation in which rate demands can be universally enforced?

Mr. Mason

I do not know that the non-payment of rates arises on the security question, but I should have to have more knowledge of the question before I could give a more detailed reply.

Mr. Goodhart

The security forces are to be congratulated on their recent successes, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a substantial propaganda campaign is now being mounted against the RUC Reserve? Does he think that one of the reasons for this campaign is the recognition that the RUC Reserve could become an important channel for recruiting members of the minority community into the security forces?

Mr. Mason

I would very much appreciate leaders of the minority community now encouraging their people to join the RUC Reserve, and the RUC in particular. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there has recently been a campaign by the Provisional IRA against the RUC because of the tremendous successes achieved by the RUC during this year. In the first six months of 1976, there were 634 bomb incidents. So far this year there have been 335. Compared with the first six months of 1976, civilian deaths are down from 146 to 49 and civilian injuries have been reduced from 1,253 to 657. Alongside that, the RUC has been increasing not only its charging rate but its conviction rate against terrorists during the course of this year.

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