HC Deb 27 June 1978 vol 952 cc1207-8
12. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to strengthen the Paratroop Regiment.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

No, Sir.

Mr. Aitken

If Britain were to mount a rescue operation comparable with that mounted recently by the French in Zaire, is the Minister satisfied that this country has enough paratroops, aircraft and resupply and reinforcement facilities to carry out a proper job capably, or are the Government as complacent about this matter as they are about everything else?

Mr. Brown

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated recently, the capacity to look after the lives of our citizens is there".—[Official Report, 23rd May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 1330.]

Mr. Crocott

Does it not ill become hon. Gentlemen who constantly complain about Soviet and Cuban military intervention in Africa to look constantly for ways in which we ourselves can intervene militarily? Does my hon. Friend further agree that by far the best, the most sensible, the most moral and the most popular policy that the Government could adopt would be for them to take an even-handed approach in condemning any foreign military intervention in Africa, whether from the Soviet Union, Cuba or France?

Mr. Brown

I do not disagree with my hon. Friend's basic premise, but I believe it is important that this country should have the right and ability to protect the lives of its nationals.

Mr. McCusker

Is the Minister aware that those who were most strident in their criticism of the introduction of members of the Paratroop Regiment in South Armagh, where they have carried out a good job, have been very silent in the past few weeks about the atrocities committed by the IRA? Will he further accept that, although the Parachute Regiment can carry out a good anti-terrorist job, the terrorists will be defeated only by the proper application of anti-terrorist techniques employed by the SAS?

Mr. Brown

I was with the 1st Parachute Regiment in South Armagh less than a week ago, and I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. It is indisputable that that regiment has carried out a superb job in South Armagh, and considerable sympathy for the losses sustained by the regiment has been expressed by the people in the area. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that IRA terrorists can be defeated only by the SAS. Every regiment operating in Northern Ireland has the capability to defeat terrorist-type activities of the IRA and will continue to do so.