HC Deb 23 June 1977 vol 933 cc1714-5
1. Mr. Molyneaux

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the recruitment, equipment and training of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James A. Dunn)

I am satisfied that recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary is proceeding satisfactorily and that arrangements for the provision of equipment and the training of officers by the Police Authority and the Chief Constable respectively meet the needs of the force.

Mr. Molyneaux

Will the Minister particularly look at the need for facilities for training on the new weapons? Will he also do all he can to speed up the supply of the promised new vehicles and examine the problem caused by the shortage of accommodation for the regional crime squads?

Mr. Dunn

The Chief Constable has a working party which discusses these matters and advises him on them. They are continually reviewed. The Chief Constable is aware of the adjustments required to keep pace with the new equipment.

Mr. Neave

Will the Minister convey to the RUC our congratulations on its handling of the recent strike organised by the United Ulster Unionist Action Council? How many people have been charged with intimidation and will appear before the courts under the Protection of Property and Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1969? Is the Minister aware that the firm stand by the Secretary of State that picketing with intimidation was against the law greatly sustained the police in their difficulty on that occasion?

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. and hon. Friends have conveyed to the members of the RUC, through the Chief Constable, our congratulations on the performance which they managed to achieve during a most difficult and challenging time. We applaud their courage in many of the things they did. From memory, I think that about 40 people have been charged with intimidation under the Protection of Property and Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1969. About 110 charges have still to be processed and have to go before the Director of Public Prosecutions before further action can be taken.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Can the Minister say whether the RUC's obvious impartiality during the strike has helped it towards achieving peace in the "green" areas? Has it increased recruits to the force from those areas?

Mr. Dunn

The impartiality of the RUC is recognised. It was projected in the way that it succeeded. It is difficult to know to which "green" areas the hon. Member refers. In the main, the people recognise what is being done. More and more they are prepared to accept that the RUC is serving the Province as a whole.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

What progress has been made with the recruitment of Roman Catholics to the force?

Mr. Dunn

The recruitment of Roman Catholics is still not as good as we could wish. There are difficulties, but we hope that following the last confrontation in the Province Roman Catholics will recognise that there is a need for their services.

Mr. Fitt

Has there been any lowering of the standards required for recruitment to the RUC? Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of suspicion attached to the standards required for recruitment to the RUC Reserve? Will he undertake, even though there appears to be a shortage of personnel in the RUC and the RUC Reserve, that the same calibre of candidate will be sought and that there will be no lowering of standards?

Mr. Dunn

All I can say is that to the best of my knowledge there has been no lowering of standards. As far as I am aware—I can only take the figures—about 1,000 people have made applications and of those only 258 have been accepted. That is an indicator that follows the pattern of what has gone previously. That is the only reply that I can give at present