HC Deb 10 November 1983 vol 48 cc397-8
4. Mr. Maginnis

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the additional burden on the security forces for which he is responsible of the continuing withdrawal of Regular Army units from static duties at permanent vehicle checkpoints along the frontier with the Irish Republic.

Mr. Prior

The deployment of troops in Northern Ireland is an operational matter for the GOC. Current deployments are designed to free more regular soldiers for flexible patrolling in planned operations.

Mr. Maginnis

Does the Secretary of State admit that his unjustified reduction in the number of regular soldiers in Northern Ireland from 10,000 to about 6,000 during the past 11 months has resulted in more UDR men being deployed at permanent vehicle checkpoints along the frontier with the Irish Republic? Is he aware that those men are taken away from their families for long periods, and that those families live unprotected while their men are away from home? Do those men not also take their local knowledge out of the area where it could be put to best use?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman's figures for the reduction in soldiers are incorrect. Between 9,000 and 9,500 soldiers are operating in Northern Ireland. Taking soldiers out of fixed vehicle checkpoints and other points, thereby making them more mobile, and replacing them with UDR men has helped security in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Secretary of State agree, therefore, that we must have the best camouflaged Army in the world?

Mr. Prior

I am delighted to hear that.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the Secretary of State agree that his present security policy has failed completely in Northern Ireland, and that he needs to change it forthwith?

Mr. Prior

That is a great insult to the troops and to the efforts made by hon. Members in all parts of the House and people throughout the country. If the hon. Gentleman would do a lttle more to keep peace and quiet in Northern Ireland, that would be helpful.

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