HC Deb 23 June 1977 vol 933 cc1724-6
8. Mr. Crouch

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the marking of detonators for use in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland began; and when the security forces first recovered a detonator so marked.

Mr. Dunn

Marking began during the latter part of 1971, and the first marked detonators were recovered shortly afterwards.

Mr. Crouch

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. Is he satisfied, however, that the present requirements for marking detonators with the country of their intended use are sufficient for their control, bearing in mind that the key to an explosion is a detonator?

Mr. Dunn

I am satisfied, and the best advice that has been given to me is that most of the detonators still in circulation are those that were acquired long before 1971. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, their life is very long-lasting.

Mr. McCusker

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that I travelled home from London to Belfast yesterday with a Member of the other place who had on his person two detonators, and this despite the fact that he had gone through the security check at London Airport? Does not that show how easy it is to transport these vital pieces of equipment to the terrorist, and that the Minister should be taking all measures possible to stop this traffic?

Mr. Dunn

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me the name of the person who acted so illegally. If we can deal with that matter, we can perhaps get the others who may be following that bad example. I would add that although I am pleased he came from Belfast I am not pleased at his previous remarks.

Mr. Freud

Does not the Minister agree that it is much more important to guard the detonators from the place of manufacture to the place where they are intended to be used rather than marking them? What is happening at the moment is that they get stolen and are illicitly used.

Mr. Dunn

There are a thousand and one ways in which detonators are obtained. It is not always in transit. They are sometimes taken from storage and sometimes from the place of manufacture. To guard them would be a costly exercise. The way that they are being dealt with is, I believe, the best way of all that has been suggested.

Mr. Goodhart

As the security forces are finding many unmarked detonators, will the Government reconsider their rather neutral attitude to the Detonator Bill now being guided through another place by Lord Brookeborough, which would markedly intensify restrictions on marking on this side of the Irish Sea?

Mr. Dunn

I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said and I shall bring it to the attention of all concerned.