HC Deb 10 July 1979 vol 970 cc253-5
17. Mr. Biggs-Davison

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

Mr. Hayhoe

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made clear to the House recently, the object of our security policy in Northern Ireland continues to be the defeat of terrorism and the extension of normal policing. The operations of the armed forces in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary continue to make an invaluable contribution to this aim.

I have recently visited the Province and received a thorough briefing on the Army's operations and had the opportunity to pay a visit to a unit in South Armagh. I should like to pay my full-hearted tribute to the dedication of the Service men in Northern Ireland who carry out a very difficult task in often uncomfortable conditions with cheerful good humour and great skill.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my hon. Friend aware that the whole House endorses his tribute to Her Majesty's forces in Northern Ireland? As the Dublin Government are publicly committed to the defeat of terrorism, is it not time that co-operation between the British and Irish Armies reached the point that has been achieved between the Garda Siochana and the Royal Ulster Constabulary? What has been done to that end?

Mr. Hayhoe

Co-operation is being received from the security forces of the Republic. This has been mainly on the police net. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Irelan[...], recently visited Dublin. He had useful discussions with the Government of the Republic. We are considering what further steps could help to improve co-operation on security matters. I agree that this is a most important aspect of the situation.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Does the Minister agree that the standard Army tactics have not been widely successful in Northern Ireland? Therefore, is it not foolish to start using the UDR and training them to those tactics? Would it not be much wiser to treat the UDR as an anti-terrorist force and use it accordingly?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the failure of the tactics of the troops in Northern Ireland, who at present are there in a supporting role to the RUC.

Mr. Kilfedder

In view of the deteriorating situation in Northern Ireland, where the Provisional IRA is killing more and more members of the security forces and civilians, will the Minister make a massive increase in the number of SAS personnel serving on the border areas of the Province and also mobilise another full-time battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment?

Mr. Hayhoe

If we can achieve increased recruiting to the UDR, that will be an important contribution. The deployment of units is a matter for the Commander-in-Chief, in consultation with the Secretary of State.